However, it is the significant mental health benefits that many people aren’t aware which may boost your incentive to commence resistance training. As it turns out, strength training can be extremely beneficial to both body and mind. A recent meta-analysis conducted by Gordon and colleagues involving 1877 participants, determined that resistance exercise training (RET) significantly reduced depressive symptoms in adults. Interestingly, these improvements occurred regardless of the participant’s health status, volume of training, or improvements in strength. Furthermore, benefits of RET in reducing symptoms of depression were greater and particularly effective in individuals with more serious cases of depression.
Traditionally, studies indicated that aerobic exercise predominantly, was beneficial in reducing depression, while a grey area existed in the research surrounding whether strength training had similar benefits, or whether it in fact increased tension and negative mood. However, this new study lends weight to the view that resistance training does in fact benefit mood and reduce depression. The research comes at an important time, with depression being the 3rd highest burden of disease in Australia, with 1 in 7 Australians experiencing depression in their lifetime.
The study indicated improvements in depressive symptoms regardless of volume of training. Gordon and colleagues could not specify an optimal exercise regime, despite some evidence supporting supervised sessions shorter than 45 minutes. Instead, he recommends following ACSM guidelines, which prescribe the completion of strength training on at least 2 days per week, with repetition ranges between 8 and 12. Alternatively, research from other studies has emphasised that self-selection is key, in that the influence of choice on volume and intensity of training is the greatest determinant in enjoyment and the reduction of depressive symptoms.
The exact reasons why such reductions in depression occurred in this study were also unclear. Gordon stated that “there are potential social, cognitive and neurobiological factors that could help explain how and why resistance training may reduce depressive symptoms,” examples of which include the social interactions that occur through training, while a placebo effect was also proposed. Previous research has highlighted some potential explanations that may help bridge this gap; here are 3 possible reasons as to why RET may lessen depressive symptoms:
- Resistance training has been found to improve the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension via the release of stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. Furthermore, such stimulated hormone release will also reduce anxiety sensitivity, which aids in minimising depression.
- RET stimulates the release of endorphins, hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system that create feelings of euphoria, thus lessening depressive symptoms. Exercise has actually been found to be as effective as antidepressant medications in managing depression.
- Finally, with physical benefits from RET including weight loss, come mental benefits such as improved self-esteem. This is due to an enhanced self-image, which correlates with positive mood states and a reduction in depressive symptoms.
Evidently, there are an array of mental health benefits that correlate with a reduction in depression and enhanced mood. As highlighted by this new research, these benefits can in fact arise from regular resistance training. Hopefully this exercise physiology blog article has increased your awareness of some of these benefits and has motivated you to begin or continue with strength training exercise.
At Inspire Fitness we pride ourselves on helping clients achieve their goals and reach their optimal physical and mental health. If you believe you want to incorporate some resistance training into your routine, please contact us on 9857 3007.
We can begin designing you your own individualised training program. It really is ‘about feeling good’.