Do you do any weight-bearing exercise? That can mean your own bodyweight – think pushups and crunches – but it can also mean resistance training, or weightlifting. Multiple studies have shown that weightlifting, especially as you start to get older, can slow the decline in bone strength that occurs as one ages. That means denser, stronger bones that can protect against falls and fractures, especially in vulnerable bones in the wrists and hips. So weight bearing is good for your physical health – but what about your mental health?
This piece of research was a meta-analysis, meaning that a number of different studies were brought together and analysed to see if an overall effect could be determined. What they wanted to find out was whether weightlifting exercises like the bench press and squat could have an antidepressant effect. They included studies that examined the effect of exercise on depression as well as and compared to other treatments, like cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressant drugs and aerobic exercise.
What the meta-analysis found was that resistance training can help treat depression – it was associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression and had a moderate effect, on average. What was particularly interesting was that there didn’t seem to be a link between how intensely someone did the exercise, or how much weight they lifted – rather what appeared to be important was that they did the exercise in the first place. The effect of the resistance training was comparable to aerobic exercise as an intervention for depression, which can be effective.
If you’re feeling blue, weightlifting may be an effective option for you – seemingly on par with other exercise-based interventions. Plus, you get the added benefits that come with load-bearing exercises, like added strength, joint protection and bone density. The researchers also said there’s no reason not to try resistance exercise alongside other interventions – say, if you’re on an antidepressant drug – though it’s something you should always discuss with your doctor before making any changes to a treatment plan you’ve been given.