A review of more than 30 separate studies published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has found that physical activity, particularly weightlifting and strength training, can have benefits that go beyond improving your physique. Such exercise can also reduce depressive symptoms.
While it would be a stretch to say that this kind of exercise is a cure for depression, the paper’s lead author, Brett Gordon of the University of Limerick in Ireland, noted that it does increase blood flow to the brain and trigger the release of endorphins, which are two things that can significantly improve and change how the brain functions.
Gordon was reluctant to offer insight into the best exercise regimens to alleviate symptoms of depression, but he did say that he favors the guidelines set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine, which recommends doing eight to twelve repetitions of between eight and ten different exercises at least twice each week. Some studies not examined by Gordon show that other forms of exercises, such as yoga, cardio, or aerobics, can have similar effects on depressive symptoms.
While exercise may not be a panacea for depression, Gordon’s work does demonstrate that there are many ways that one can improve their mental health, and that a more holistic approach that includes elements like a nutrition plan, healthier lifestyle choices, meditation, psychotherapy, and medication can have a more significant impact on patient wellbeing.