A new study suggests that a steady exercise program can reduce some psychological and physiological consequences of childhood trauma (ACE) for healthful young girls. These experiences have “lasting negative impacts on health, well-being and also life-changing opportunities,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study will be discussed in the coming week, at the American Physiological Society annual meeting at Experimental Biology (EB) 2022.

ACEs can be traumatic and potentially devastating incidents that can occur prior to reaching the age of 18 like neglect, abuse or loss of the parent. Around 61 percent of U.S. adults report experiencing at the very least one ACE and around 16% have experienced more than four. ACEs can increase the chance of developing a variety of chronic diseases, including heart illness and mental health issues.

The research team divided 42 healthy young adults into three groups: two of which were experimental, and the other two controlled. The experimental group included 14 women in their teens who had at minimum four ACEs in addition to a group of control. The group of control consisted of women in their teens who didn’t experience any ACEs.

The group of participants was part of a moderately high intensity, progressive exercise program. The schedule included 2 days of aerobic exercise and the two-day resistance exercises every week. The resistance training slowly intensified as the participants hit benchmarks.

Participants saw improvements in two indicators of cardiovascular health as well as two indicators of psychological wellbeing. The systolic blood pressure – the highest value in the blood pressure reading–went down as did their levels of endothelin-1 an peptide that causes the constriction in blood vessels. They also had better goal-setting as a subtype of the psychological measurement of optimism. In addition, they found a correlation between physical and psychological results “suggesting the possibility of a psychophysiological connection between positive psychological attributes in relation to cardiovascular risk variables among young women suffering from ACEs.”

Our data may suggest a significant relationship between the cardiovascular system and its physiological functions for women in their early twenties who’ve experienced significant stress in their childhood that can be improved by participating in systematic, progressive exercise,” researchers wrote.

American Physiological Society

The progressive exercise program reduces the negative effects of negative childhood experiences of young women