If you frequently read fitness articles and blogs (especially those focused on strength training), you’ll notice that many of them concentrate on the physical benefits (such as strengthening muscles, preventing age-related muscle loss, slowing bone loss) of regular exercise. While exercising is essential for physical fitness, it also helps overall wellness in other ways. Regular physical exercise boosts your immune system, manages and improves diabetes, lowers blood pressure, and so much more. It can also have positive effects on your mental health, too.
Though aerobic exercise has been commonly attributed to reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, recent research has shown that strength training can substantially improve your mood and mental wellbeing.
Below, we’ll discuss some of the many ways you can use strength training to strengthen your mental health, boost your mood and feel better all around.
Strength Training Naturally Reduces Depression
There was a time when the general public considered depression as just a “phase.” People dealing with depressive systems were encouraged to “just get over it.” Thankfully, the views and stigma around mental health have drastically changed.
Depression is a common illness that affects approximately 3.8% of the global population. Individuals affected by depression may experience symptoms such as profound feelings of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness, a loss of interest and participation in everyday pleasures and experiences, lack of confidence, loss of sleep, and, in some cases, thoughts of self-harm.
While depression is commonly treated with medication and therapy, many scientists and medical experts are acknowledging the significant effects that strength training has on reducing symptoms of depression. Why is that? Recent studies have concluded that individuals who suffer from depression feel a greater peace of mind, increased self confidence and sense of achievement after they strength train. These feelings help stave off the depressive symptoms such as the loss of interest in hobbies/activities, lack of confidence, and feelings of sadness and emptiness, which in term helps boost the individual’s overall mental wellbeing.
Strength Training Reduces Anxiety
Exercising regularly is capable of helping reduce anxiety in multiple ways. Exercising not only helps divert your attention away from the various factors that are causing anxiety (stress, disappointment, anger, grief, or other common triggers), it also helps you be more resilient to these anxiety-causing emotions. Exercise also decreases your muscle tension which helps you relax and shake off anxiety. In addition to these benefits, exercise increases your heart rate which in turn changes your brain chemistry by producing anti-anxiety neurochemicals such as serotonin.
Much like regular exercise, strength training has demonstrated a unique ability to ease anxiety. In a recent study, test subjects were divided into two groups: one that went about their normal routines and one that participated in strength training for several weeks. At the end of the study, both groups were given tests to gauge their levels of anxiety. The group who participated in strength training scored 20% better on their anxiety tests than the group who did not participate.
Strength Training Improves Cognition
As we mentioned above, strength training is vital to preventing sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss). However, it’s also a vital tool in the fight against age-related cognitive decline. One recent clinical trial studied the effects of brain training and strength training on a group of individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Some of the subjects participated in brain training activities while the other group of subjects engaged in both brain testing and strength training programs. At the conclusion of the trial, the individuals in the second group not only benefited from improved cognitive function, they continued to enjoy these benefits 18 months later.
As you can see, the medical and scientific communities are starting to truly understand the many ways that strength training improves mental health. While strength training should not necessarily replace medical and therapeutic treatments for mental illness, it can certainly support (and potentially eliminate) those treatments and help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and other mental health conditions and illnesses.
If you’re affected by depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), anxiety, sleeplessness, low self esteem, and even everyday stress, Loyalty Fitness trainers and nutrition coaches can help you develop a personalized 30-minute strength training session to help improve your mental state and wellbeing.
Not only will our super slow strength training sessions help reduce your symptoms of depression and anxiety, but working directly with one of our expert trainers can benefit your mental wellbeing also. Having someone in your corner to help you set goals, track and monitor your progress and encourage you every step of the way, will help build your feelings of confidence and achievement. Plus, you’ll form an interpersonal relationship with your trainer which is another great way to improve your mental health, change your mood and counteract depressive symptoms.
Are you ready to drastically improve your mental health naturally through strength training? If so, contact us today to book your first strength training session at our Greenwich, CT or Syosset, NY location. We also have virtual training available. Let’s make 2022 your best, healthiest year yet!