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Exercise: The best ‘pill' that you can take

There is no question that exercise is good for your state of mind, but new research has drawn a specific link to weight training as a therapy for managing depression.

That’s right – lifting weights is good for your brain and mental health.

This may be obvious to those individuals who are regular gym goers. Others who may be intimidated by the sight of dumbbells and squat racks may take some convincing.

While many people focus on cardiovascular exercise, weight training offers many benefits that cardio alone simply doesn’t.

Debunking the myths

We have written before about the benefits of weight training, especially for those in and past middle age. Lifting weights is an excellent way, perhaps the best way, to maintain bone and joint health, to halt the loss of muscle mass that happens to all of us as we age, and to stave off the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis.

In fact, weight training can actually help alleviate joint pain. The U.S. Arthritis Foundation says exercise is good for dealing with arthritis.

On the other hand, weight training will not make you big and bulky. This is a particularly important point to make with our women readers. Body builders with bulging muscles follow very specific meal plans and programs that have them spending hours in the gym almost every day. Most of us won’t be doing that.

And another point – the older you get, the harder it is to increase muscle size. Weight training for a couple hours a week isn’t going to leave you bulked up. But it will help you lose unwanted body fat and sculpt lean and strong muscle that will keep you active and mobile in later years.

About that depression study

In fact it wasn’t one, but a review of 33 separate clinical trials that involved 1,877 participants. The researchers concluded that “resistance exercise training (weight training) significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults regardless of health status, total prescribed volume of (training), or significant improvements in strength.”

In other words, you reap the mental health benefits whether you go to the gym two times or five times a week, lift lots of weights or only a few, get stronger, or not (though you likely will). This applied almost equally to men and women, at any age.

You just have to show up and lift something to feel better and have a brighter outlook on life.

The same authors had previously found that strength training can help people feel less anxious and nervous. This builds on a separate study from 2016 that included one million people and found that exercise in general helped to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Now, these studies have also concluded that aerobic exercise (cardio) provides the same mental health benefits as weight training. But as we outlined at the top of these posts, weight training offers other health benefits that cardio alone does not. The best approach is to do some of both, every week.

A three-step plan

  1. Just get started. Various public and private gyms near our Kanata Chiropractic clinic offer introductory weight training sessions at a low cost with a personal trainer. (Ask us for referrals). This can set you on the path with the basics of how to safely use weight-training equipment with the proper techniques.
  2. Stick with it and be consistent. Continuing with that personal trainer is an excellent way to keep on track, if you have the financial means. Otherwise, try to find a like-minded person with whom you can team as a workout buddy.
  3. Always listen to your body. Sure, there is some truth in “no pain, no gain,” but there is no need to push yourself that far to see benefits. If it hurts, don’t do it.

As with any new exercise routine, start slow, build up to more, and find the groove that works for you.

Please contact us if you have any questions!

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