According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.
To address the debilitating global problem, sports scientists from Ireland’s University of Limerick, Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet and Iowa State University recently reviewed more than 30 previously published studies and found that strength training may help tackle depressive symptoms.
The research, published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday, featured 33 randomized clinical trials involving 1,877 participants.
The team examined the effects of strength training (or resistance exercise training) on depression symptoms and found that regardless of age, sex or health status, this type of exercise improved common symptoms of low mood, feelings of worthlessness or loss of interest in hobbies and activities.
“Interestingly, larger improvements were found among adults with depressive symptoms indicative of mild-to-moderate depression compared to adults without such scores, suggesting RET may be particularly effective for those with greater depressive symptoms,” lead researcher Brett Gordon told Time.
While the research can’t prove cause and effect, Gordon noted that some of the studies included in the analysis suggest that increased blood flow to the brain via exercise can ultimately help create new brain cells and release mood-enhancing chemicals to combat symptoms.
Starting a new workout routine while dealing with depression isn’t easy. But Gordon told Time the new review does add weight to the argument that strength training can be a useful tool for improving mood and mental health.
He recommends following the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines by committing to two days per week of strength training (8-12 repetitions of 8-10 different strength exercises each time).
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