Objective. The mind and body are inseparable and share bidirectional influences. Psychological stress and distress related to traumatic events are significant contributors to morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs worldwide. Mind-body movement-oriented interventions have been found to benefit one's physical and mental health via down-regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system. This systematic review aimed to identify and synthesize the research on movement-oriented mind-body interventions for trauma and stress as informed by psychoneuroimmunology. The review focused on exercise, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and dance movement therapy that target the physiological systems impacted by psychological stress/trauma. Methods. Data was collected from four electronic databases (EBSCOHost, SCOPUS, Pubmed/Medline, Psychiatry online) between 2005-2021. All studies were required to include adult subjects exposed to psychological stress or trauma, a movement-oriented mind-body intervention, an objective physiologic psychoneuroimmunological outcome measure, and a self or clinician-reported psychological or psychosocial symptom measure. A Data Collection and Extraction form was used to record the variables for each study that met the inclusion criteria. Results. In total, 20 studies were included in the descriptive synthesis and summary of existing quantitative studies. The results found yoga to be the most researched movement-oriented mind-body intervention. Most included studies found mental health improvements alongside positive impacts on inflammatory and immune processes after yoga, tai-chi, qigong, or dance-movement therapy. Fourteen of the 20 selected studies indicated at least one significant finding for a physiological PNI-related outcome measure and psychosocial outcome measure. Conclusion. The findings of this systematic review suggest that movement-oriented mind-body interventions may be a promising approach for promoting mental and physical health in individuals with psychological stress and trauma. Future research in this field should include longitudinal studies, standardizing the movement-oriented mind-body interventions in research, operationally defining stress and trauma, increasing inclusion of diversity in participants, and increasing sample sizes.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Psychoneuroimmunology; Mind and body therapies; Stress (Psychology); Psychic trauma

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Shelly P. Harrell

Included in

Psychology Commons