The WarriorWOD Foundation, based in the Charleston, South Carolina area, is a new nonprofit organization committed to healing veterans and their invisible wounds through its holistic program, “Exercise as an RX.” The CCME Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to fund this innovative program, which includes a participant study with the College of Charleston, measuring the program’s effectiveness on post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms.  

“Exercise as an RX” is a six-month program incorporating a three-pronged approach toward addressing PTS symptoms: exercise, nutrition, and mentorship. Veterans enrolled in the program receive a gym membership through a partner gym with a two-times per week attendance requirement; bi-weekly nutrition meetings, which includes incorporating healthy eating habits into diets and nutrition education; and mentorship through the “battle buddy” relationship, which provides the support and motivation most often needed to help veterans be held accountable to the program (and therefore their own healing).  

Tucked away on a back road in the West Ashley area of Charleston sits one of the program’s partner gyms, Iron Bridge Cross Fit, owned by WarriorWOD’s Director of Nutrition, Donnie McDaniel and his wife. Donnie and nutrition coaches assist program participants with their nutrition education by stressing improved habit formation. Oftentimes, proper, and well-balanced nutrition along with healthy eating habits do not correspond with active military service in a war zone. Changing these habits on an individual basis is key to its success. Donnie and his team monitor veterans’ progress throughout the program and provide counseling and education on how to implement good nutrition by shifting eating habits toward whole foods and away from highly processed foods.   

In addition to assisting with gym access and session requirements for the extent of the program, WarriorWOD has developed a partnership with apps that provide free workout information and exercise programs for a year. The community connection provided through gyms has proven to be an important component to the program for veterans. While serving, most veterans find themselves bonding with other service members in a way that is not replicated within the civilian world. When they leave the military, that connection is lost, and many veterans find themselves adrift. The battle buddy one-on-one support for the program duration helps provide motivation and accountability, with this dual impact underscoring the program’s intentionally holistic approach toward PTS healing. After the formal program ends, the connections found through gyms and other exercise facilities help veterans find a healthy community long-term.      

Veterans in the first cohort of participation have shown that “Exercise as an RX” is helping them take back their lives. According to WarriorWOD Founder and CEO, Phil Palmer, so far, the first 42 veterans have shown a 29% decrease in PTS symptoms and suicidal ideation. The study’s principal researcher utilizes surveys that monitor twenty different symptoms associated with PTS. These surveys are employed before, during, and following the six-month program period to track symptom intensity, which converts into preliminary findings. When the study concludes in March 2025, the data will be collected and analyzed, and the study will be published. One goal of the study is to contribute toward an evidence base that could potentially spread to demographics beyond veterans.  

Because of its success so far, word has gotten out among veteran communities across the country. Veterans have reached out to WarriorWOD from other regions, and the organization has found itself now assisting veterans with its program in 32 states. Recently, the regional VA in Orlando, Florida has prescribed the WarriorWOD program to veterans seeking treatment for PTS, as it has proven effective in not only reducing PTS symptoms and suicidal ideation but has prevented veteran suicide.  

However, statistics and surveys only tell part of the story. Recently, one veteran sent Mr. Palmer a personal note that said, “I’m blessed and grateful to be a part of this incredible program…my life truly depends on this…for that, thank you brother!” According to the WarriorWOD team, multiple participants have shared that they struggled for a long time with thoughts of suicide and ending their lives, and because of the program and its positive effect on their mental health, instead found “joy.”      

To learn more about the work and impact of the WarriorWOD Foundation and to support this innovative program, visit