Strength Training Combats Depression

It’s nearly halfway through the first month of 2019 and many have started the new year setting goals to eat healthier, lose weight, exercise more or perhaps limit sugar or alcohol.  If getting more exercise is among your health goals this year, incorporating strength training into your routine is not only good for function and balance, new research links resistance training with a reduction in symptoms of depression. 

We know that regular exercise, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, helps improve physical and mental health.  Studies have shown that aerobic exercise helps combat depression and now researchers have found that resistance training works as well to prevent or treat symptoms of depression.  Strength training also helps older adults preserve muscle mass, maintain bone density and reduce the risk for falls allowing seniors to remain active and independent longer. 

By adding two days of strength training exercises into a weekly exercise routine, older adults can improve their power and endurance while also reducing depression and anxiety.  A recent review of studies, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that resistance training was linked with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms among 1,877 study participants. 

Depression is a growing problem worldwide, affecting more than 300 million people.  The condition not only places a growing burden on health care systems, it has been associated with a increased risk for other health problems including type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease.   People with depression are less healthy and can have a shorter life expectancy of up to 10 years compared with adults who do not have a diagnosis of depression.  

The good news is that regular exercise, whether it’s going for a brisk daily walk or lifting weights, can not only keep you healthier and more able to live independently, it will also help improve your mental health.  Always talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise program and remember to begin slowly, increasing intensity and duration gradually over time.  Check out the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Lifestyle section to learn more about proper technique for weight training.