Even Moderate Training Can Help With Anxiety and Depression, Studies Show

Why do we train?

Some do it to look better. Others do it to be more functional at their job or in daily life. Some do it for physical health purposes.

But what about our mental health?

Those who work out consistently long-term readily understand the benefits of regular training, both physically and mentally. If one stops working out, not only will their physical health deteriorate, but most will also notice a marked diminishing of their mental state.

Now you may be asking: is there an optimal way to train to guard one from depressive symptoms?

The Case for Cardio

Cardio is a great way to feel boosted. We have all heard of “runner’s high,” that chemical rush our body creates during sustained steady state cardio. Often synonymous with a “second wind” or “adrenaline rush,” this endorphin-fueled boost can improve our mood for hours, a ripple effect that can reach almost all areas of our life.

Science has long supported the correlation between cardio and contentment, and recent studies reinforce the notion as strongly as ever. A 2016 review of past research confirmed that “physical activity is protective from future depression.” The final conclusion? That improving your cardio—by virtually any means—can “reduce the significant burden associated with depression.”

Weighing In on Weight Training

With cardio’s effects on mental health having been studied to near exhaustion, researchers decide to see what resistance training might offer. A study published this year in JAMA Psychiatry—by researchers who had already discovered a link between weightlifting and reduced anxiety—found that pumping iron can work wonders for our mental health.

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In their meta-analysis of more than 30 clinical trials including nearly 2,000 participants, “resistance exercise training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, with a moderate-sized mean effect.” In other words, the authors say, “evidence supports resistance exercise training as an alternative therapy for depressive symptoms.” Yes, it’s that effective.

The icing on the cake? You don’t need to work out every day for two hours. Even short, occasional sessions offer benefits.

“Resistance exercise training significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults regardless of health status, total prescribed volume of RET, or significant improvements in strength,” the analysis revealed.

More Reasons Than We Need

The physical benefits of cardio and resistance training should be more than enough for everyone to training with some regularity and intensity. Knowing that this activity can also minimize serious mental issues like anxiety and depression makes it even more obvious that we should all work out.

And remember: there are a thousand different ways to train. From hitting the gym to jogging through the woods to swimming in a lake, get it done and you’ll feel better—physically and mentally.

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