Harvard Scientists Say Lifting Weights May Be Good for Depression

The mental health benefits of regular exercise are extremely well-documented.

Heck, anyone who has ever worked out before can tell you: It boosts your mood, improves your self-esteem, and helps you sleep better, just for starters.

Exercise is also known to be an extremely effective way to combat depression.

But there’s actually some evidence that weight training, in particular, might be one of the best treatments for depression around.

Evidence from where? Just a little place called Harvard Medical School.

That’s right.

Back in 1997, a team from Harvard wanted to put this idea to the test. They asked, “We already know what cardio and aerobic exercise can do for depression… How about weight lifting?”

Here’s how they found out.

Harvard researchers took a group of volunteers over 60 years old, all diagnosed with various levels of depression, and randomly split them into two groups.

One group was put through supervised progressive resistance training three times a week for a total of ten weeks.

The participants did exercises like the bench press, lat pulldown, leg press, and others.

The control group did not exercise.

At the end of the ten-week trial, each group was retested for a number of depression indicators, and the strength training group had all significantly improved.

The control group’s depression, overall, worsened slightly over the ten weeks.

Probably the coolest takeaway, though? The heavier or more intense the weight training, the better the individuals seemed to get.

And the 1997 Harvard study isn’t the only time this theory has ever been put to the test.

A study out of Norway in the late 1980s found that aerobic and non-aerobic forms of exercise were equally effective in treating depression.

Another study out of the University of Rochester found roughly the same thing.

So there you have it.

Science confirms that lifting heavy weights not only has major physical benefits, but can be one of the best ways to combat diagnosed depression.

That’s not to say that treating or curing depression is as simple as hitting the gym.

If you’re suffering from depression, it’s best to seek professional help and develop a treatment plan suited to your unique situation.

But if you’re mentally and physically able, a solid weightlifting program might be just the thing you need to get back on your feet.

Harvard scientists say so.

(And if you need a little help, check out my guide to how to stay motivated to work out.)