A new study measuring the effects of resistance training on people with depression has revealed that activities such as weightlifting result in significant improvements in depressive symptoms.
A review of 33 clinical trials, comprising 1,877 participants in total, found that when compared to non-active control conditions, resistance training was comparable in effect to frontline treatments such as antidepressant and behavioural therapies.
The study, entitled Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms; Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials, was published online in JAMA Psychiatry.
Brett R. Gordon of the Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department at University of Limerick said, “The effect of strength training on symptoms of depression compares to the effects of other common treatments, like antidepressant medication and behavioural therapies. Strength training or weight lifting, is free from the negative side effects and high costs of many medications and therapies. Strength or resistance training can also be carried out alongside the other therapies.”
Depression is a relatively common mood disorder that often occurs in combination with other health problems. It is a significant source of disability and reduced productivity, and the most costly mental health disorder in Europe.
Previous research demonstrated that exercise training improves depressive symptoms among otherwise healthy adults, adults with a variety of medical conditions, and adults with a depressive disorder like Major Depressive Disorder. However, most of the evidence to date is based on findings from trials of aerobic exercise training (running, cycling, swimming, etc).
The effects of resistance exercise training (RET), or weight lifting and strength training, on depressive symptoms have remained relatively understudied, and have not been summarised in a large-scale quantitative review such as this.
The purpose of this systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression analysis was to quantify the effect of resistance exercise training on depressive symptoms based on the best available evidence from high-quality randomised controlled trials, and also to explore variables that may influence how the training affects depressive symptoms.
Reductions in depressive symptoms where resistance exercise training took place occurred regardless of whether participants were healthy or had an illness, the amount of resistance training the participants were supposed to do or whether or not it resulted in significant improvements in strength.