The number of reasons to practice resistance training is growing as quickly as dumbbells can tone your biceps. In addition to basically cutting your early-death risk in half and protecting you from osteoporosis, weight lifting or using resistance bands to challenge your muscles can reduce or prevent depressive symptoms, a new study found.
In a new meta-analysis from JAMA Psychiatry that cross-examined 33 clinical trials of almost 1,900 participants, researchers found that resistance training doesn’t just combat anxiety and nervousness, as they discovered in a 2017 review. This go around, researchers found that the exercises also significantly alleviate or avert depressive symptoms. Regardless of age, gender, health status, or how many days a week a person resistance trained—even if that was just a short workout twice a week, and even if they didn’t actually see improvement in their strength—everyone who did it saw a positive impact, The New York Times reports.
Regardless of age, gender, health status, or how many days a week a person resistance trained, everyone who did it saw a positive impact on depressive symptoms.
Significantly, this remained true for all participants, including those who have been diagnosed with depression (which is increasingly common, considering rates have spiked 33 percent in five years) as well as those who have a clean bill of mental health. People diagnosed with depression saw reduced symptoms, and those who hadn’t been diagnosed saw a decreased chance of feeling sad in the future.
Still, study co-author Brett Gordon, a graduate student at the University of Limerick, says these results don’t show that resistance training is better for fighting depression than other types of exercise and cautions that it should not be used as a replacement for traditional therapy and medication. But if you’re willing to try alternative forms of relief in conjunction with other therapies or simply want to do everything you can to maintain strong mental health, then grab those weights and stick to a routine, no matter how short and sweet it is.
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