Article about survivors and strenuous physical exercise.

Here is a sports medicine journal article which is the only one I found about survivors and issues with exercise. There was another one that said that about half of the survivors surveyed had found physical exercise to be a helpful healing strategy. I’d have to say that it fits for me. I feel like I’ll fail, generally, at whatever physical exercise I do if it’s at all taxing. Partner dance seems to be an exception for me. I think it’s the slower pace initially and the social part of it (someone is there to do it with the whole time) that makes it easier.

Relationship of Sexual Abuse to Motivation for Strenuous Exercise

Hesdon B, Salmon P
J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2003;43:213-219

Aim: Sources of motivation for intense physical exercise are poorly understood. Based on views that link such behaviour to preexisting psychopathology, we tested the hypotheses that history of childhood sexual abuse would be greater in intense exercisers than in non-exercisers, and that effects of abuse on self-esteem, perfectionism and body dissatisfaction would help to explain any link between abuse and exercise.
Methods: Consecutive attenders at two types of exercise were recruited: weight training and running. Sedentary attenders at a further education college provided a third, comparison group. Each group contained 64 men and 64 women. Participants completed questionnaires to record history of sexual and physical abuse in childhood and adulthood, body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and positive and negative perfectionism.
Results: Adult, but not childhood abuse, was reported by more weight-trainers than others. Abused individuals were more anxious and depressed, were more negative about themselves and were more concerned with avoiding failure in general. Women abused in childhood were more concerned with avoiding failure at exercise in particular.
Conclusion: These results suggest hypotheses that link adult abuse to intense weight training habits and, in women, that link child abuse to feelings of failure in exercise.

0 thoughts on “Article about survivors and strenuous physical exercise.”

  1. I felt remarkably alive for a period of time in my life (about a decade ago) when I was amazingly functional and exercising. But I don’t have the ability now for the cardio workouts that I once had (I played basketball). There seems to be too much pain and chaos. Instead, I’ve been having decent success at lifting weights… But it’s so hard to get motivated. I know it helps… There just seems to be so much other stuff I have to do to remain above water and that gets in the way.

  2. I’m really glad that you have found exercise helpful. Me too.

    However, I’m sorry, but I hate to be a negative voice, but my immediate reaction to this article is “no sh!t, Sherlock”. Why? Because it’s outstanding conclusion is that childhood abuse leads to feelings of failure in exercise. Really? No sh!t… most survivors fear failure in just about every aspect of life. Sounds to me like someone was desperate for a Ph D topic.

    Sorry for the negativity.

    1. No offence taken about your commend, but I really don’t find exercise helpful, at all. I find it very stressful, and it makes me cry and freak out generally, or at least worry that I will, which makes it embarassing to do in a public place. I really should exercise for my health, but can only do non-strenuous exercise without a lot of stress.

      Actually, I think that whoever did the research thought that since exercise is so wonderful for everything (sarcasm) as athletic people often spout in sacharine wonder, they actually found the findings unexpected. I found it validating personally, since I’m actually pretty confident everywhere else in my life (granted after 20 years of healing…)

      1. Sorry SWD, I misunderstood you. I thought when you said you’d found partner dance to be easier you meant this form of exercise was ok.

        I agree that the author of the research probably found the findings surprising. If I was cynical I would say it just demonstrates how clueless they are, and how narrow their experience. They are probably one of those people drowning in sacharine wonder. As I am not a cynic (!), I think they were just surprised.

        I find exercise to be ok as long as I can do it on my own, and don’t have to do it in front of others – like in a class. For some reason I can use the treadmill at the gym while others are in the room and not have the same sense that others are watching me. Perhaps it’s the absence of mirrors, I don’t know.

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