New evidence suggests strength training can fight off depression
08/19/2018 // Michelle Simmons // Views

You may want to add weights to your regular workout routine, as the benefits of strength training go beyond the physical. New research published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal suggested that regular strength training may help fight off depression.

Researchers in the study looked at the results of 33 randomized, controlled trials on depression and strength training. In the paper, strength training was referred to as resistance exercise training. The study reviewed included more than 2,000 participants including males and females of different ages.

After analyzing the studies, the researchers discovered that resistance training dramatically cuts the incidence of depression. The analysis revealed that participants who were assigned to a weight training group had a lower risk of depression regardless of whether they had met a clinical cutoff for depression at the start of the study. Even after considering the participants' age, gender, or improvements in muscle mass, the outcomes remained significant. This suggests that even participants who had physical changes due to strength training still saw improvements in mood.

Although the researchers did not look at how resistance training exactly wards off depression, study lead author Brett Gordon suggested that there are several psychological and physiological factors that could be responsible for the link. Gordon explained that psychological mechanisms could include the anticipation of enhanced mental health after exercise and social interaction and social support during exercise, although more research was needed to confirm the mechanism.


Benefits of strength training that go beyond muscle building

Here are more reasons for you to add strength training to your workout routine:

  • It will make you more competent – A study compared the effects of aerobic exercise and resistance training on the psychological health of obese teenagers and found that people who belong in the resistance group experienced higher self-esteem and perceived strength after four weeks.
  • It will motivate you – Unlike walking, which will take time before you see the changes in your body, the effects of strength training can be seen quickly. You can feel a difference in your muscles even after one session, and you will see some muscle definition after a couple of workouts. Hence, strength training is a good motivator.
  • It will support brain health – In an Italian study that compared the effects of strength training with cardio training in 80 older adults, discovered that those who accomplished a 12-week strength routine exhibited an enhanced capacity for practical skills, while cardio training helped boost their analytical skills.
  • It will help you relieve stress – Strength training requires intensity and focus which can serve as a distraction from the daily stressors of life.
  • It will reduce your abdominal fat – In a 2014 study published in the journal Obesity, researchers from Harvard followed 10,500 men over the course of 12 years and discovered that strength training prevented more increases in abdominal fat compared to cardiovascular exercise.
  • It will improve heart health – Abdominal fat, also referred to as visceral fat, sits in and around the vital organs such as the heart. Therefore, warding off or cutting any excess abdominal fat through strength training can enhance heart health. Studies also suggested that strength training has a direct impact on the heart. One study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggested that young men who regularly strength train have higher high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels than those who do not lift weights. In addition, strength training improves blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
  • It will regulate blood sugar levels – A 2013 review published in the journal BioMed Research International revealed that strength training not only builds muscle but also enhance the muscle's ability to take in and utilize glucose. (Related: Strength Training Helps Prevent Type-2 Diabetes.)

Read more news stories and studies on warding off depression by reading

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