It’s well-known that exercise helps in improving mental well-being. Now, a new study has shown that resistance exercise training can help in the treatment of anxiety and depressive symptoms.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Limerick, provided “exciting evidence” that resistance exercise training could be an accessible alternative therapy to improve treatment of anxiety and depression along with providing other health benefits. The findings were published in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine.
Although anxiety and depressive symptoms and disorders are public health burdens, successful treatment is limited, the researchers pointed out in the university’s statement. The benefits of resistance exercise training, or muscle-strengthening exercise, which involves exerting force against a load repeatedly, are well-established. However, how and why resistance exercise training may improve these mental health outcomes, are not well understood.
According to the researchers, the new study provides a foundation to explore whether resistance training can be a key behavioural treatment approach for depression and anxiety.
"As resistance training likely works through both shared and distinct mechanisms to achieve its positive mood effects compared to aerobic exercise, it has the potential to be used in conjunction with aerobic exercise or as a standalone therapy for these debilitating conditions,” co-author Jacob D Meyer said in the statement.
The researchers said that they will use the new study as a foundation to comprehensively examine the potential benefits of resistance training and its various health benefits.
Previous studies have shown that physical activity can reduce depressive symptoms and improve mental health. For instance, a January 2023 study published in JAMA Pediatrics, showed that physical activity interventions as an alternative or adjunctive approach can alleviate depressive symptoms in children and adolescents.
Another study, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in September 2021, showed that people leading an active lifestyle are less prone to developing anxiety disorders. According to the findings, people who lead a more physically active lifestyle had an almost 60% lower risk of developing anxiety disorders over a follow-up period of up to 21 years.
However, as the researchers of the new study pointed out, more comprehensive trials are needed to better understand the association between different forms of exercise and mental health.