Our emotions are complex but we all have them. Emotion refers to a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. In this instance Brad Stulberg, who writes Outside's Do It Better column, reflects on mental health benefits of lifting weights, mainly anxiety and depression. Anxiety refers to a feeling of nervousness, worry, excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat. However, anxiety is the expectation of future threat. Depression refers to a feeling of severe dejection and despondency, typically with guilt and inadequacy feelings, and often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of sleep and appetite:
“At the beginning of the year, when I was coming out of a rough experience with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression, I decided to switch from running regularly to lifting weights. This was despite mountains of evidence pointing to the benefits of aerobic exercise for mental health. The story I told myself was that running is a catabolic activity: It breaks the body down and causes increases in the stress hormone cortisol. Weightlifting, on the other hand, is anabolic: It builds the body up and promotes the release of the feel-good hormone testosterone. I felt broken. I figured trying to build myself up might help.
And it did. I began strength training three to four days per week, doing mainly compound lifts like squatting, pressing, and deadlifting, and started to feel incrementally better. Whether this drove my improvement is hard to say. I was also engaging in regular cognitive behavioral therapy, meditating daily, and taking medication. But lifting weights certainly didn’t hurt.
Two new studies lend scientific credence to my experience. The first, published in 2017 in the journal Sports Medicine, found that lifting weights reduces the symptoms of anxiety. The second, published in May of this year in JAMA Psychiatry, found that lifting weights can help ease and even prevent depression. Both of these studies are particularly valuable because they are meta-analyses (comprehensive reviews of multiple experiments). In other words, these aren’t just one-off findings.”
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