The NIMH reports that 16 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. The World Health Organization found that 350 million people across the world suffer from depression.
A study at Ireland’s University of Limerick, led by Brett Gordon, graduate student, found that depression costs the global economy $118 billion and the lack of psychotherapy remains an issue.
The meta-analysis was published in JAMA Psychiatry and analyzed 33 clinical trials consisting of 1,877 participants. The study determined that the volume of resistance training and strength improvements were not associated with a person experiencing an antidepressant effect.
Researchers noted smaller reductions in a participant’s depressive symptoms. The study’s researchers suggest that resistance training, which can be done at home with pull ups, sit-ups and even push-ups, can be used as an alternative form of therapy for people with depressive symptoms.
Data sources were from before August 2017 with a randomization of n=947.
Researchers looked at fifty-four effects from the 33 clinical trials to find that the depressive symptoms greatly reduced among adults regardless of their current health status.
The study confirms the need for further studies to evaluate the link between resistance training and a reduction in depressive symptoms. One theory as to why resistance training can positively impact depression is that the training increases a person’s endurance. The body can efficiently send oxygen and nutrients to the brain when endurance is increased, leading to better overall mental health.
An interesting factor in the study is that the person’s depression lowered whether or not they lifted weights daily or every other day.
Gordon claims that it’s impossible to have a blind study because it’s easy to know who is engaging in resistance training. He claims that the placebo effect may cause a person’s depression to be lower, but he claims that with all of the benefits associated with exercise, this is a placebo effect that has few side effects.
Gordon claims that exercise may also be able to stave off symptoms of depression. He is careful to note that participants showed up to the gym to complete their workouts and were not concerned with “bulking up.”
Resistance training and exercise remain a key important factor in preventing obesity, bone strength loss and disease. Depression, which is increasing among the world’s population with the rate of suicide rising across the United States, remains a top concern for mental health professionals.