By: Jennifer Nicole Lee
All of us must know that there are many benefits to weight training. We know that exercise can help fight heart disease, but can it help fight depression?
Studies have found exercise to have both physiological and psychological benefits. A Harvard study once found that ten weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than counseling. This is particularly important for women since they are more than twice as likely to experience depression and only one out of three actually seek care.
Not feeling good? Then train. Not happy? Then train. Need an instant mental and mood boost? Then train! The science is simple! If you suffer from feeling down at times or serious depression, then you can find solace in weight training!
Of course there are countless benefits to weight training. However, there are many that go far beyond just looking good!
Here is a quick list of mental and emotional benefits that you will get from banging some weights around! And I will go into detail later on how weight training is your lethal ammunition against fighting and winning the war on depression for good!
When you exercise and lift weights you:
- Have an instant release of “feel good” hormones called endorphins.
- You enjoy a feeling of accomplishment after you finish your workout.
- You know if you can achieve getting through your grueling hard core weight training workout, you can achieve anything!
- Your endurance level is increased, so you have more energy to tackle life’s challenges that come at you.
- You have pride in yourself by sticking to a workout program.
- Your high protein food plan that usually goes with weight training is superior for your brain, and aids in the well being of your mental state, as high protein lean fish, red meats and chicken are “super brainy” foods.
To carry on, you’ll be surprised to learn what exercise and bodybuilding can do for you!
Do you think weight training is only good for developing a lean body, strong muscles and a strong heart? Well, think again about bodybuilding and weight training! Physical activity has been shown to help with being emotionally and mentally fit also.
While the majority of fitness research efforts focus on the physical and health benefits of exercise, there is a growing body of work demonstrating that exercise promotes wellness and mental health.
Researchers at Duke University studied people suffering from depression for 4 months and found that 60% of the participants who weight trained for 40 minutes 4 times a week overcame their depression without using antidepressant medication. This is the same percentage rate as for those who only used medication in their treatment for depression.
The beauty is that you don’t have to be suffering from a clinical or diagnosed Mental Illness to get substantial mental health benefits from bodybuilding and weight training. One study found that short workouts of 7 minutes in length could help lower sadness, tension and anger along with improving resistance to disease in healthy people.
Many people exercise to boost confidence along with reducing anxiety and stress, all of which contribute to psychological health and well-being.
So, weight training can be viewed as a preventative or wellness activity that may actually help prevent physical and emotional conditions. By the way, even short bursts of activity help individuals feel better, which means that you don’t have to spend hours at the gym to gain real mental health benefits.
Being a weight loss success myself, I know first hand how it is to feel down from being fat and frumpy! Since becoming a fitness expert here in Miami, and also world wide through my innovative programs, I have noted one reason for the feelings of well-being that are generated during and after exercise: the body’s natural release of endorphins. These chemicals released by the brain are the body’s natural painkillers and can lead to an increase in feelings of happiness.
Exercise leads to an increase in energy and to better sleeping patterns, which may also explain why it is so helpful to people with depression. Low energy and poor sleep are common symptoms of depression.
The joyful feeling and the pleasure after weight training very beneficial. I urge everyone to take a small break instead of saying no to exercise and say no to something else.
I also warn against the “punitive mindset” in which some people engage during exercise, viewing it as a task or punishment instead of a pleasure.
Instead, I recommend that you view movement as an affirmation of living and a function to maintain wellness. You must have an attitude adjustment with weight training as an “I have to” to an “I get to!” You don’t have to do anything! You get to give yourself the greatest reward in life, the gift of weight training!
Even though meditation and yoga are very essential in achieving balance in the mind body and soul, through the more nontraditional methods such as weight training, you also achieve optimal levels of mental health. Both meditation and weight training answer the need to have down time along with the need to quiet down and look within.
This is especially important because today people absorb more information in one day than a person in the 1400′s absorbed in an entire lifetime. Weight training today helps you stay focused, strong and in control!
Technology, including cell phones, faxes and computers, along with the mentality of moving quicker and constantly doing things, tends to lead to people forgetting that this inward focus that weight training is necessary and vital to mental health. All of my weight training clients often say they feel more centered and calm, along with the physical benefits of stretching and building strength.
With this information, it is easy to see how strength training is not only beneficial for the body but for emotional and mental health as well.
If you feel depressed, it’s best to do something about it – depression doesn’t just go away on its own. In addition to getting help from working with weights a doctor or therapist, here are 5 things you can do to feel better.
Weight train for at least 45 minutes 3 or 4 times a week. People who are depressed may not feel much like being active. But make yourself do it anyway (ask a friend to train with you or hire a trainer to get you on your upward spiral if you need to be motivated).
Once you get in the exercise habit, it won’t take long to notice a difference in your mood. In addition to getting in some bodybuilding or weight training, some yoga poses can help relieve feelings of depression.
Two other aspects of yoga and weight training is that you are forced to deep breathe and focus while in the workouts. This forcefulness of focusing in your present state with no room for worry or anxiety can also help people with depression feel better.
2. Nurture Yourself With Good Nutrition:
Depression can affect appetite. One person may not feel like eating at all, but another might overeat. If depression has affected your eating, you’ll need to be extra mindful of getting the right nourishment.
Proper nutrition can influence a person’s mood and energy. So eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and get regular meals (even if you don’t feel hungry, try to eat something light, like a piece of fruit, to keep you going).
3. Identify Troubles, But Don’t Dwell On Them:
Try to identify any situations that have contributed to your depression. When you know what’s got you feeling blue and why, talk about it with a caring friend.
Talking is a way to release the feelings and to receive some understanding. If there’s no one to tell, pouring your heart out to a journal works just as well. Once you air out these thoughts and feelings, turn your attention to something positive. Take action to solve problems.
Ask for help if you need it. Feeling connected to friends and family can help relieve depression. (It may also help them feel there’s something they can do instead of just watching you hurt.)
4. Express Yourself:
With depression, a person’s creativity and sense of fun may seem blocked. By exercising your imagination (painting, drawing, doodling, sewing, writing, dancing, composing music, etc.) you not only get those creative juices flowing, you also loosen up some positive emotions.
Take time to play with a friend or a pet, or do something fun for yourself. Find something to laugh about – a funny movie, perhaps. Laughter helps lighten your mood.
5. Look On The Bright Side:
Depression affects a person’s thoughts, making everything seem dismal, negative, and hopeless. If depression has you noticing only the negative, make an effort to notice the good things in life. Try to notice one thing, then try to think of one more. Consider your strengths, gifts, or blessings. Most of all, don’t forget to be patient with yourself. Depression takes time to heal.
Most people dealing with depression have stories that are very similar, going through life with a heavy head even in the happiest of times. A horrible day dealing with depression is described as one in which you can’t get wake up and get out of bed and it feels as if there is a dark thunder cloud hanging over your head.
Even athletes are living with depression related to multiple concussions. A study of over 2,500 retired NFL players concluded that three concussions triple the chance of experiencing depression. This is extremely important in a sport in which brain trauma is so often and easily dismissed. (Note, for impact sports, you must protect your head at all times, to help prevent any damage to the head, brain, and skull, and to therefore fight off any foreseeable depression.)
Here is a powerful analogy:
Just like the protective helmets cover the faces of men playing a violent game such as football, the angry aggression that is so commonly associated with normal guy behavior may actually be a mask for depression and physical injury is not needed to suffer its effects.
It has actually been discovered that depression is more common in men than anyone ever knew, as male depression has often been under-diagnosed because the standard diagnostic manual portrays the depression symptoms more commonly associated with women.
About six million men will be diagnosed with depression in 2008, not counting the one million more that will go undiagnosed. The point here is that more men (and women too) need to embrace power training, and weight training to help balance and fight off the dark cloud of depression. It’s as easy as scheduling your weight training session 3 times a week for beginners and also 4 times a week for more advanced levels of fitness.
Low Sex Drive
How Weight Training & Living a Healthy Fit Lifestyle Increases Your Libido
The sad weepiness that is commonly associated with depression is much more commonly found in women, while a man is more likely to be short-tempered, fatigued, and uninterested in sex, work, or hobbies. Depression is surprisingly enough linked to low sex drive, or losing interest in sex.
Again, exercise and weight training can help you reconnect with your passions, and get you back in the driver seat of your sexy side. This article and my Sexy Body Diet will help you rekindle your lost connections with your lover, yourself and also help you fight depression through tools, tips and techniques of super sexy women who never let life beat them up!
However, it is weight training work that provides those who suffer from depression a distraction to their painful inner feelings. Many are likely to try down their pain in alcohol or drugs instead of getting treatment. Instead of using this band aid approach of self-treatment through drugs and alcohol, my suggestion is to lean on bodybuilding and strength training instead for your healthy “addiction”. Untreated depression explains why the suicide rate is higher now than ever.
The most important message here is that we all have those down moments, but try not to allow them to rule your entire day. Aim to maintain a depression-free lifestyle by relying upon weight training, surrounding yourself with really great helpful people and friends, getting rid of toxic people and also focus on your life’s goals.
Living a depression free life can be done by reducing stress and finding social support as well as dietary changes and making sure you get your Iron! Iron from the weights that is!
Foods And Mental Outlook
Food Plan For Fighting Depression, And Keeping A Healthy Mental Outlook!
Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to build healthy brain cells, along with phosphatidyl serine. Other herbs, including eleuthero, rhodiola, and ginseng, can help the body to adapt to stress, while St. John’s wort and SAMe work as natural antidepressants.
Flax Seed Oil
Lean Red Meat
Cage Free Eggs
Also make sure you get tons of water and rest!
IMPORTANT NOTE: The most severe mistake that can be made is to play down depression, which applies to raging men just as much as it does to weeping women. Both genders need to seek help if feeling this way. If you feel you are experiencing depression, seek professional help as well as look into dietary changes, exercise, and the support of family can be a good start to a healthier outlook on life.
Why Does It Work?
Now we know that exercise and weight training DOES help, but now we answer the question WHY does exercise help? Exercise is a good way to release stress with the added benefit of improved sleep.
Women who strength train tend to feel more confident, capable and in control. Group resistance training exercise is highly recommended because it increases social involvement which is especially helpful to those who are isolated and withdrawn.
This is particularly important for seniors. Seniors often battle depression as they become more frail and isolated. Group exercise offers seniors a safe environment to get fit along with the opportunity of building healthy friendships that give them purpose.
People who experience clinical depression due to a chemical imbalance may also be a good candidate for the old fashion remedy of weight training.
Weight training increases serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel calm and relaxed. Low serotonin levels are believed to be the reason for many mild to moderate cases of depression. Even as little as ten minutes of exercise a day can help. The more you exercise the better you feel, not to mention the added benefit of looking better too.
Looking Good from Weight Training Can Also Help Reduce The Effects Of Depression
The physical effect of exercise is just one more good reason to give it a try. I believe many people experience depression simply because they are unhappy with the way they look, and being overweight can definitely have a negative effect on how they feel.
In my countless telephone consultations, I have heard women cry out loud and clear that they want to look like a Fitness Model with a Magazine Cover worthy physique! So I created my own program to help real life women achieve extraordinary results, from the comfort of their own home, and even if they are college students, work full time jobs, and also if they are moms.
Women now have access to a great deal of programs on the internet to help increase the quality of their life with essential weight training exercises that will help them not only ward off depression, but also increase their stamina, endurance and energy levels! It’s so rewarding for me to see as an author and program developer how exercise can reduce the waistline and many of the problems that go with it!
Also poor physical appearance and bad self-confidence are also triggers for depression, which again can all be fixed with a proper weight training program. Programs are also available on the internet where women are taught to practice self-love, self-respect, to quiet down that negative voice that tends to dominate us, and to also weight train, eat and practice important beauty rituals of a bikini model. It’s fun to use such powerful programs that can help transform your body, and at the same time help improve your mental well being through:
- Top beauty secrets and make up tips from the worlds most beautiful women
- Intense weight training and strength training routines
- Powerful exercises, such as visualizations, meditations, etc.
An estimated 18.5 million Americans suffer from depression. It’s serious and you shouldn’t try to battle it on your own. It’s always best to consult a doctor when facing a mental health issue like depression, just don’t be surprised if your doctor prescribes you a daily dose of exercise and weight training!
I hope that you enjoyed my article on the mental boosting aspects of weight training and how it can help YOU fight off depression and be victorious!