If you struggle with depression, then you may have noticed that some of the symptoms can be easier to manage when you focus on certain healthy habits in your lifestyle, like your workout routine. In fact, exercise has long been touted as a great supplement to day-to-day treatment for depression. And while the best workout for depression may vary from person to person, new research shows that strength training might be a really great place to start.
According to the results of a new paper published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, resistance exercise training (RET) — which is basically just another way to refer to stuff like weightlifting and strength training — can seriously help people manage certain symptoms of depression. Of course, you're probably already familiar with some of the general benefits of strength training, like stronger bones and sharper thinking skills, but this new research claims it could play a big role in helping people manage a few key mental health issues, specifically for those living with depression.
TIME reports that Brett Gordon, a postgraduate researcher studying physical education and sports sciences at Ireland’s University of Limerick, led the study to demonstrate the effects of resistance training on symptoms of depression. Gordon and his team looked at the results of 33 different clinical trials, which included a total of almost 2,000 people.
After analyzing all of this past research, the study authors concluded that strength training is, compared to other types of exercise, most strongly associated with improvements in certain symptoms of depression.
According to TIME, strength training was found to help people manage things like "low mood, a loss of interest in activities and feelings of worthlessness." What's more, the outlet explains, these results were found to be true across the board, "regardless of a person’s age, sex, health status, specific exercise routine or improvements in physical strength." Lead study author Brett Gordon told TIME,
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.
Gordon saw these results as particularly heartening because strength training is a relatively simple form of exercise that's accessible to a wide population, and just about anyone can work out this way at home.
However, as Gordon pointed out to TIME, strength training isn't necessarily a cure for depression. Rather, he told the outlet, "it seems to work as well as the frontline treatments for depression," which is still extremely promising as far as future treatments go. What's more, plenty of other research, including the results of a secondary analysis in Gordon and his team's latest study, indicate that it's not necessarily just strength training that can provide these benefits. In other words, there's no need to feel like you "should" work out only a certain type of way when it comes to managing symptoms of depression.
But hey, if you are interested in giving some strength training a shot in your workout routine, Tony Vidal, CTO and pack leader at Beast: Fitness Evolved, has some advice for how to get started: "My go-to modality for adding variety, fun, and efficiency to my workouts would be a barbell complex," he tells Elite Daily. A barbell complex, he explains, basically just means sequentially performing a series of exercises one after another — using a weight that is challenging, but not quite at the maximum you can lift — without breaking, until the last rep of the last movement is complete. Be sure to choose a weight you can do 10 to 15 quality repetitions with, the trainer suggests.
Stringing exercises together one after another with minimal rest, Vidal tells Elite Daily, allows for a conditioning component to the traditional strength training motions. "This is always a great stress-reliever, and the resulting increased heart rate can usher in a host endorphins," he says, adding that the forward lunge, the barbell deadlift, and the barbell thruster are all great workouts to try here, as well.
If you come to find strength training really isn't your thing, Jamison Monroe, a certified yoga teacher and founder and CEO of the rehab center Newport Academy, recommends yoga as a workout that can "increase stress resilience and feelings of connection." He tells Elite Daily that, in a 2015 study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, researchers found that doing yoga regularly can have positive effects on your brainwaves. "In other words, yoga relaxes the nervous system," Monroe says. "Furthermore, yoga increases brain chemicals that contribute to optimism and well-being, including endorphins and serotonin."
But when all is said and done, Monroe says the consistency of any workout routine you choose is even more important than the type of exercise itself. If you want to reap some of the cognitive and mental health benefits of a regular workout routine, he simply recommends doing whatever form of physical activity suits you best, three to five times a week, for at least 30 minutes a session. That actually sounds kind of doable, right?