If you struggle with depression, research says lifting weights might help

Adding strength training to your exercise routine is becoming more and more popular — and for good reason. There are a number of benefits that come from building up your strength, including protecting bone and muscle mass, keeping weight off and managing chronic diseases like arthritis.

Now, in addition to the hosts of physical benefits, resistance training has also been found to reduce symptoms of depression, according to a new meta-analysis of previous studies.


The review published in JAMA Psychiatry found that resistance training, which includes weightlifting and exercises that use your own body weight like push-ups, is just as effective as aerobic exercise at combatting depression.

Previous studies that compared the efficacy of running vs. weightlifting in alleviating depression have also found that “the two activities were not significantly different, and that both types of exercise were sufficient to reduce symptoms of depression.”

While pumping iron may not be as helpful for those with severe depression, the research suggests that it can be a powerful tool in an arsenal of therapies — including medications and behavioral therapy — to help people manage their symptoms.


The authors say that more clinical trials are needed in order to pinpoint exactly why this type of exercise improves depression, but until then, it can’t hurt to add some strength training to your routine and see how it benefits you — especially if you’re not a big fan of cardio exercise yet long for the mood boost that often results from it.

If you’re not sure where to start, the paper’s author suggests following guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine, which recommends performing strength training exercises on at least two non-consecutive days a week, with eight to 12 reps of eight to 10 different exercises each time.

For more types of exercise that battle depression and anxiety, check out this list of suggestions.