Weightlifting can be as effective for depression as medication, University of Limerick study finds

Jess Casey

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Jess Casey

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Weightlifting can be as effective for depression as medication, University of Limerick study finds

A new UL study has found strength training can be as effective at alleviating symptoms of depression as medication and therapy

WEIGHTLIFTING, and other types of strength training, can be as effective at alleviating symptoms of depression as medication or therapy, a new study at the University of Limerick has found. 

A large scale review of clinical trials, carried out by the UL Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department, has found that resistance training led to “significant” improvements in the symptoms of people with depression. 

The study found that when compared to non-active control conditions, resistance training was comparable to treatments like antidepressants and behavioural therapies.

“Strength training or weight lifting, is free from the negative side effects and high costs of many medications and therapies,” Brett R. Gordon, of the UL Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department, said. 

“Strength or resistance training can also be carried out alongside the other therapies.

Decreases in depressive symptoms happened regardless of whether participants were healthy or had an illness, the amount of resistance training the participants were supposed to do or or whether or not it resulted in significant improvements in strength.

The effects of resistance training on depressive symptoms did not significantly vary based on the number of sessions carried out per week or the intensity, the study found. 

However, further research is needed to explore the optimal resistance exercise training routine for improving depressive symptoms. 

The effects of resistance exercise training (RET), or weight lifting and strength training, on depressive symptoms have remained relatively understudied, and have not been summarised in a large-scale quantitative review such as this.

This is the first time a large-scale quantitative review has summarised the effects of resistance exercise training, weightlifting and strength training on depressive symptoms, reviewing 33 clinical trials comprising of 1,877 participants.

The UL study, called Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms; Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials, has been published online in JAMA Psychiatry.