Lift Weights To Lift Your Mood, According To A New Study

Written by Krysten Peck

Photo by Elena Nichizhenova

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Movement of any kind has been linked to improved physical and mental health, but now, a new study suggests that weightlifting might be the most beneficial type of exercise in treating depression. While the research on the physical health gains from exercises like walking and other forms of cardio are more than prevalent, this review published in JAMA Psychiatry is one of the first comprehensive reviews that explores strength training’s antidepressant effects.

Sure, strength training has been linked to improved sleep and even decreased levels of anxiety, but little has the direct link between strength training and depression been studied. Even repeated exposure to the outdoors is said to help.

The review features feedback from various randomized trials, which included participants of various health profiles. The control group—those who were already involved in exercise routines and those who were not—was crucial to the foundation of the study for establishing a baseline of depressive symptoms before and during the intervention of strength training.

Researchers found 54 effects derived from the 33 trials that demonstrated the positive effect of strength training on depressive symptoms. One primary focus of the study was to determine whether or not factors like amount of exercise, gender, or age influenced the outcome. They determined that the amount of the weights had little to no impact on mental health. Similarly, younger participants experienced the same decrease in symptoms as middle-age and elderly participants.

And in case you're worried about skill level, don't be: The study concluded that more strength did not correlate with less depression, so to speak. All that mattered was showing up and giving it your best.

Though the review can't quite pinpoint how exercise influences mental health, it's clear that leaning into some resistance can perhaps help in more ways than not.

Weightlifting sounds promising, but where to start? Here are 7 people on why and how they started lifting weights.

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