Resistance exercise linked to reduced depression symptoms
Most prior research focused more on aerobic exercise like running rather than strength training
The study team analyzed data from 33 clinical trials that randomly assigned a total of 947 adults to participate in resistance training programs and another 930 adults to be inactive.
"Previous reviews have shown that exercise training of all types improves depressive symptoms among otherwise healthy adults, adults with a variety of medical conditions, and adults with major depressive disorder," said lead author Brett Gordon, a researcher at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
"In the trials included in our work, the effect of resistance exercise training on depressive symptoms did not significantly vary based on the features of the resistance exercise training, such as frequency or intensity," Gordon added.
Stay active long term
Most often, the programs included three weekly exercise sessions, although some had only two and others had as many as seven sessions per week. Many of the resistance training programs included supervised workouts alone or in combination with some unsupervised sessions.
We should not strive to make it a contest between aerobic exercise and resistance training. Both are essential to successful aging and independent living.- Dianna Purvis Jaffin
Resistance training was associated with a reduction in depression symptoms regardless of how often people exercised. It also didn't appear to matter whether participants experienced improvements in strength or gains in muscle mass.
Moreover, several trials in the analysis did not track whether people who were prescribed antidepressants took these medications as directed, and this might independently influence the magnitude of any changes in depression symptoms associated with exercise.
"The underlying message is to stay active, in whatever manner an individual will adhere to over the long-term," Jaffin, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.
"We should not strive to make it a contest between aerobic exercise and resistance training," Jaffin added. "Both are essential to successful aging and independent living."