Study: Weight training reduces symptoms of depression

The physical benefits of weight training are self-explanatory, but a recent study suggest that lifting weights has a positive impact on your mental health as well.

A joint study between scientists at the University of Limerick, Iowa State University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, set out to measure the effect resistance exercise training had on ‘depressive symptoms’.

Over 1,800 subjects took part in the study, which culminated in 33 randomised clinical trials. Half of the sample undertook a programme of resistance exercise training, while the remainder didn’t, and the results were definitive.

The study suggests that the average levels of ‘depressive symptoms’ shown by a the active sample reduced dramatically after undergoing weight training.

Weight Training and Mental Health

What’s even more interesting is that there was no correlation between the general fitness levels, the volume of resistance exercise undertaken, and the reduction of these symptoms.

In short, it didn’t matter whether the participants were bench-pressing huge weights or taking things a bit more lightly (literally), ‘depressive symptoms’ were reduced.

However, the study did show that those who initially showed mild-to-moderate levels of these symptoms before the trials began did show stronger results.

Brett Gordon, one of the post-graduate researchers that carried out the trials explained; “Larger improvements were found among adults with depressive symptoms indicative of mild-to-moderate depression, compared to adults without such scores, suggesting RET [resistance exercise training] may be particularly effective for those with greater depressive symptoms.”

Once almost exclusively the domain of body-builders, weight lifting has really taken off amongst the ‘mainstream’ gym goer, with more people than ever lifting weights on a regular basis.

The link between regular exercise and a good state of mental health has been a well established one for a long time. But now it appears that it’s not just aerobic and cardio-based exercise that improves one’s mental condition, and that picking up those dumbbells or resistance bands can reduce the risk of depression too.