Strength training isn’t just about getting bulging muscles. It’s also a great way to brighten your mood, according to new research.
A new paper, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that resistance exercise training (RET), such as weightlifting and strength training, is linked to a major reduction in symptoms of depression. It’s also good for your body, of course, because it can make your bones stronger and help prevent chronic conditions.
Brett Gordon, the paper’s lead author and a postgraduate researcher in the department of physical education and sports sciences at Ireland’s University of Limerick, isn’t exactly hailing lifting weights and side arm raises as a cure for depression, but he is calling for more attention to be paid to it as a form of alleviation. And you can’t beat the fact that this kind of exercise is accessible and affordable. Think dumbbells and leg lifts.
More than 300 million people worldwide are affected by depression, according to the World Health Organization. It can be a debilitating problem and treatments usually involve medications and psychotherapy, which can also be expensive and time-consuming, as ABC notes.
Gordon and his colleagues scoured 33 clinical trials—including 1,877 people—to examine the effects of resistance exercise training on symptoms of depression, as Time reported. They found that strength training was associated with improvements in depressive symptoms such as low mood, a loss of interest in activities and feelings of worthlessness. This seemed to hold regardless of a person’s age, sex, health status, specific exercise routine or improvements in physical strength.
“Interestingly, larger improvements were found among adults with depressive symptoms indicative of mild-to-moderate depression compared to adults without such scores, suggesting RET may be particularly effective for those with greater depressive symptoms,” Gordon says, as Time cites.
The best news of all is that improvements in mood did not depend on how much exercise was done, baseline health or the amount of strength gained from the exercise program, the researchers found. The important thing was to, well, just do it.So when you are feeling down, it might be a good time for some leg lifts.