The physical benefits of strength training are well-known and often obvious to the naked eye. But are there psychological benefits too? Indeed, lifting weights helps with a host of mental health issues, including easing anxiety and depression and increasing happiness. Studies show that high- and moderate-intensity workouts are more effective than low-intensity ones, so push yourself a bit for the most benefits.
Lift to Alleviate Anxiety
For more than a decade, Brian C. Focht, PhD, an assistant professor of health and exercise science at the Ohio State University in Columbus, has studied the effects of muscle on mental health. In some cases, the benefits of strength training on mood are virtually immediate, Focht notes. “It might be because there is a sense of mastery and achievement that goes along with lifting weights,” he says. There are likely other reasons too, including release of the feel-good hormones called endorphins that are also produced during aerobic exercise.
Strength Training Beats Depression
Who would have thought that strong muscles would translate to a happier you? Reams of research show that cardiovascular exercise can help combat depression, but some recent studies focusing on resistance training as a tool to reduce depression are just as promising. One Australian study looked at a group of clinically depressed people. One-third of the group did low-intensity strength training, another third did high-intensity training and the final group participated in routine care with a general practitioner. At the end of the eight-week trial, 61 percent of the high-intensity group reported a 50 percent reduction in feelings of depression. Just 29 percent of the low-intensity group reported similar feelings. In the group that just met with their general practitioner, only 21 percent reported fewer feelings of depression.
Build Muscle, Boost Body Image
While all of that may sound great, most of us want to see results when we look in the mirror. Forget feeling good, looking better is the real reason most of us exercise, right? With consistent strength training, you will see results — and enjoy a burst of self-confidence to boot.