Weights Can Help Lift the Weight of Depression

Posted in: Exercise
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Susan Ohtake, Certified Personal Trainer

Susan Ohtake, CPT

We don't talk about it enough, but there are many people who suffer from depression. And, unfortunately, these numbers are increasing. At least 16 million adults had at least one depressive episode in 2012 and the majority of them were women.

Research shows women t have a stronger genetic predisposition to developing depression due to our fluctuating hormone levels. It just so happens that our hormones really start to go crazy around the time of menopause. So, what can do we do? Where do we start? How do we prevent or overcome something like this for ourselves and our children?

Why Exercise is Recommended

There are multiple ways to address depression. Some people take one of the numerous antidepressants that are available on the market. However, these anti-depressants can have serious side effects that lead to people stopping use before they see any improvements....so I get why some people avoid them.

Other people work to build a better mind-body connection, focusing on meditation and yoga. Sadly, others leave their depression untreated.

For years, doctors have believed exercise is one of the first steps for treating depression. It's easy to see why too! Exercise boosts dopamine levels, making you feel better as you're working out and after your workout is over.

But, until now, there's been limited direct research in using specific exercise styles to treat depression.

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Doctors Say Weight Lifting Helps

Recently, a study was conducted at the University of Limerick (Ireland). The study looked at a relatively large number of participants. Some participants took anti-depressants and others took part in various types of therapy. There were also some people who participated in weightlifting exercises. Somewhat surprisingly, the study showed that weightlifting yielded almost the same results (in terms of reduced depression symptoms) compared with more traditional treatment.

Even better, weightlifting does not have the same troublesome side effects as many antidepressants. Antidepressant medications have a wide range of side effects, such as: nausea, a loss of sexual drive, insomnia, and fatigue. These side effects can lead to a decreased quality of life.

Antidepressants and other medical treatments for depression can also be very expensive. Sometimes these costs are not covered by insurance. Therefore, some people have to pay out-of-pocket. This makes weightlifting a much more cost effective treatment option (of course you should ALWAYS listen to the advice of your doctor or therapist here!).

These research results should probably not be overly surprising. Previous research has shown that activities, such as running, can also help treat depression. However, this was the first time that researchers discovered that weightlifting and resistance training could generate similar benefits.

Interestingly, the study found that almost anyone can benefit from this exercise. There was no minimum weight that had to be lifted. In fact, people benefited even if they only lifted weights one time per week. This is good news for us busy moms and working professionals who do not have a lot of free time to waste!

How Short, Effective Workouts Help Boost Mood

Moving around and getting the blood flowing releases endorphins, which gives us feelings of satisfaction and excitement.

High intensity interval training has the potential to give us a daily boost and it doesn't take a lot of time. Busy moms like us can squeeze in a 15 or 20 minute workout before starting our day and enjoy the benefits all day!

Traditionally, depression has been treated with expensive antidepressants and counseling that has varying degrees of success. These anti-depressants are expensive and often come with challenging and troublesome side effects. Because of this, the medical community has searched for effective alternative treatments. Based on a recent study, it appears that weightlifting and resistance training may be one of these effective treatment options. It is important to remember that treatment options are not an either or.

Resistance training and/or weightlifting can be an effective addition to a treatment regimen that already includes antidepressants or counseling. These comprehensive and integrated treatment programs can generate positive outcomes if you are struggling with depression.

Again, you should always listen to the advice of your doctor first!

References:
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/the-7-reasons-why-depression-is-more-common-in-women
  • https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/fitness/weightlifting-and-resistance-training-can-lift-off-the-weight-of-depression-major-limerick-study-36944561.html
  • https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/coping-with-side-effects-of-depression-treatment

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