Depression Is Lifting Weights this is the Answer

Approximately 300 million people worldwide are affected by depression. For something so prevalent, treatment options are sparse, with the two most common options, medication and therapy, being too expensive for many and its effectiveness rather uncertain. There is, however, one lesser known and MUCH less expensive option that many have attested to its capabilities.

And that’s... aerobic exercise, aka cardio. Indeed, we have seen a great deal of research showing that aerobic training can effectively reduce depressive symptoms. These findings, however, leave us wondering… what about the other side of the exercise coin? For those that aren’t fans of cardio, what about… resistance training, like calisthenics and lifting weights?
Well, that’s what the findings of a 2018 meta-analysis study is hoping to provide. Let’s check it out. The meta-analysis consisted of studies that employed a resistance training intervention while measuring the outcomes of depressive symptoms. 33 randomized control trials were rounded up with a total of 1,877 subjects, in which the majority, 67%, were women. The trials lasted, on average, 16 weeks with an average of 3 days of resistance training per week.

Depressive symptoms were measured through a variety of psychometric tests, such as the Beck Depression Inventory and the Geriatric Depression Scale. Overall, quite a decent amount of data to make some decent conclusions. Speaking of which, let’s get to it. In their findings, 89% of all outcome effects noted a reduction in depressive symptoms with the use of resistance training. Overall, the reduction effects were moderate and significant, even when controlling for studies that had unusually larger reductions.

And the cool thing is that these reductions were not related to doing more work, lifting heavier, or even seeing actual strength improvements. Improvements to depressive symptoms were made by simply having some consistent resistance training effort. So, in essence, resistance training, which we already know can be great for us physiologically, can potentially lend a helping hand with depression.

There are a few important takeaways from this analysis to consider though. One, the best results were found when subjects were supervised during their training. In a regular scenario, maybe having a personal trainer or a supportive friend might be of use. Another takeaway is that, although resistance training can be effective, findings show that it was not more effective than aerobic training. Either way, it’s still good confirmation that exercise in general can be effective. And finally, although the far majority of outcomes showed a reduction in depressive symptoms, we cannot ignore that for some, resistance training actually resulted in elevated depressive symptoms.

But, at the end of the day, the result of this meta-analysis still positively showcases the prospective use of resistance training in the matter of improving the symptoms of depression. At the very least, it’s food for thought and in the future, if more confirmation is published, then it can be something to seriously consider. Let me know what you think about the findings in the comments below. If you found this blog helpful at all, please give it a thumbs up and share it with your resistance training-loving friends.

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