Resistance exercise linked to reduced depression symptoms

Most prior research focused more on aerobic exercise like running rather than strength training
Posted: June 14, 2018

Fighting Obesity
A range of exercises may be able to help ease depression and other mood disorders. (Jeff Gentner/Associated Press)
People who do resistance exercises like weight lifting and strength training may experience fewer depression symptoms, a research review suggests.

The study team analyzed data from 33 clinical trials that randomly assigned a total of 947 adults to participate in resistance training programs and another 930 adults to be inactive.

Resistance workouts were associated with fewer depression symptoms regardless of whether participants had a physical or mental health problem, although the effect was most pronounced in adults with mild to moderate depression, the study team reports in JAMA Psychiatry.

“Previous reviews have shown that exercise training of all types improves depressive symptoms among otherwise healthy adults, adults with a variety of medical conditions, and adults with major depressive disorder,” said lead author Brett Gordon, a researcher at the University of Limerick in Ireland.

Most prior research, however, has focused more on aerobic exercise like running and cycling rather than on resistance workouts like weight lifting and strength training, Gordon said by email.

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“In the trials included in our work, the effect of resistance exercise training on depressive symptoms did not significantly vary based on the features of the resistance exercise training, such as frequency or intensity,” Gordon added.

On average, the resistance training programs in the small trials included in the current study lasted about 16 weeks, although they ranged in duration from 6 to 52 weeks.

Stay active long term

Most often, the programs included three weekly exercise sessions, although some had only two and others had as many as seven sessions per week. Many of the resistance training programs included supervised workouts alone or in combination with some unsupervised sessions.

In the subset of smaller trials that tracked whether people completed exercise programs as directed, the adherence rate was 78 per cent. Some other trials reported only attendance, and this ranged from 88 per cent to 94 per cent.

We should not strive to make it a contest between aerobic exercise and resistance training. Both are essential to successful aging and independent living.

  • Dianna Purvis Jaffin
    Resistance training was associated with a reduction in depression symptoms regardless of how often people exercised. It also didn’t appear to matter whether participants experienced improvements in strength or gains in muscle mass.

Even though the smaller trials in the analysis were controlled experiments designed to prove whether resistance training might be better than inactivity for easing depression, these trials still didn’t determine if exercise might work best alone, combined with medication or psychotherapy, or as an alternative to those treatments. The study also didn’t compare the effects of resistance training to aerobic exercise or other types of workouts.

Moreover, several trials in the analysis did not track whether people who were prescribed antidepressants took these medications as directed, and this might independently influence the magnitude of any changes in depression symptoms associated with exercise.

Even so, the results add to evidence that a range of exercises may be able to help ease depression and other mood disorders, said Dianna Purvis Jaffin of the Brain Performance Institute at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“The underlying message is to stay active, in whatever manner an individual will adhere to over the long-term,” Jaffin, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“We should not strive to make it a contest between aerobic exercise and resistance training,” Jaffin added. “Both are essential to successful aging and independent living.”

Three-quarters of men won’t open up to friends about their mental health for fear of being seen as a burden, according to new research by Time to Change

According to a survey of men in the UK, only a quarter of men would openly tell their male friends if they were struggling with their mental health, with the majority preferring to make up an excuse, or give another reason.

This new data shows that, despite 64% of men considering themselves to be good communicators, mental health is still a difficult topic to discuss with just under half (42%) not wanting to seem a burden to their friends. 

The study of 3,000 men in Britain, commissioned by Time to Change, highlights the barriers men still face when speaking openly about mental health. To tackle this, Time to Change is urging people to ‘Ask Twice’ if they suspect a friend, family member, or colleague might be struggling with their mental health. 

The campaign acknowledges that when we ask how our friends are doing, the usual response is “Fine thanks.” The simple act of asking again – “Are you sure you’re OK?”  – shows a genuine willingness to talk and listen.

“Experiencing a mental health problem is hard enough without having to go through it alone. Despite the fact that men’s attitudes towards mental health are improving, our results show that men still find it difficult to reach out and seek support from their male friends,” said Dominic Arnall, Head of Programme Management at Time to Change. 

“At Time to Change, we want men to be there for each other when it comes to mental health, by tapping into something they already know how to do – being a good mate. Simply providing men with the confidence to support their friends has the power to change lives, and it doesn’t need to be difficult or scary. We all know that the usual and expected response to ‘How are you?’ is ‘Fine thanks’. Ask again if you’re worried about a friend – a simple ‘Are you sure you’re ok?’ can be the signal they need to open up.” 

Despite the research showing that 70% of men have at least one to three close friends who they feel they can open up to, just under half (44%) have had fewer than two important personal conversations with a male friend in the last year. Serious topics like mental health (37%), sex life (43%) and money (45%) remain hard topics to broach with even their closest of companions.

Lack of quality time is also a factor in male friendships, with work (47%), family commitments (38%) and being too busy (27%) taking up most of their time. The survey also highlighted how it can be hard to spot when a friend wants to open up, with two-fifths of respondents  (39%) feeling they would miss the signs.

Psychotherapist Simon Garcia (Dip.Psych, MBCAP) provides some perspective on why men suffer in silence: “One thing that needs to change in society is for adult men to demonstrate that it’s OK to talk and express their negative feelings and emotions, as well as the good ones. This may encourage the younger generation of boys to grow up viewing this show of vulnerability as accepted behaviour, as well as a sign of strength rather than a weakness, as you display the courage to tackle the issue rather than ignoring it.”

Encouraging men to open up

Time to Change has compiled five tips to help men get their friends to open up.

  1. Ask Twice. Sometimes we say we’re fine when we’re not. To really find out, ask twice. It shows you’re willing to be there and listen – now or when your friend is ready.
  2. Read between the lines. While some men might come right out and say they are dealing with mental health issues, 31% are more likely to say they are stressed and 30% that they are not feeling themselves. 35% of men said if they wanted to talk to a friend about their mental health they would ask how their friend is doing and hope they’d ask them back.
  3. If he’s inviting you to go for a drink one-on-one, he might want to have a proper chat. 63% of men said they would be most comfortable talking about their mental health over a drink. Keep an eye out for the hint. Try just listening and creating some space for your friend to share what’s on their mind.
  4. Know when to end the banter. We all like a bit of banter from time to time, but it’s also easy to spot when someone’s not in the mood or they want to be serious. If you notice something is different about your friend, or your jokes aren’t going down so well, ask how they are doing – and Ask Twice! Remember, ‘grow up’ and ‘man up’ are never helpful. 42% of men say phrases like that are conversation blockers.
  5. No need to make it awkward, just let them know they are supported. 39% of men say they’ve had a disappointing reaction when they’ve shared things about their mental health in the past. All your friend wants to hear is that you’re there for them and your feelings towards them will not change. You don’t have to try and give advice, just be the good friend you’ve always been.


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Becky is a Content Producer at Happiful.

BLOG – Stress within the working environment by Marie Gresswell

Article courtesy of Oscar Kilo

7th October 2019

Hi, My name is Marie Gresswell I am currently a serving Detective Chief Inspector for Bedfordshire Police and this is my very first blog.

Police officers can experience a substantial amount of stress within their working environment, home  and social life all of which can cause a toxic overspill resulting from officers suffering from mental and physical illness, burn out and cynicism towards the job. In many cases the officers may not recognise the symptoms they are exhibiting caused by the daily pressures of the job and it is the family network who will start to see the signs and symptoms before these escalate into the work place.

Understandably in many professionals there is a degree of stress, however within the police with the demands put on our colleagues due to the types of incidents they attend on a daily basis, coupled with shortages on the front line, this stress can not only affect our colleagues role, it begins to impact upon their personal life and so signposting and support needs to be provided to family as to what they can do and the support they can get from the home force to look to mitigate adverse effects on the officer and their friends and families. Research shows that officers have a high rate of divorce rates which has been caused by job related stress (Galatzer et al 2013) and added to this many officers often feel that they are left to their own devices and not sufficient supported by senior officers within the police (Menard & Arter 2014).

I recently was invited to a wellbeing meeting within my place of work to pitch my ideas that I had implemented in my team to improve wellbeing and reduce stress, whilst at the meeting I heard that there were plans around to do a survey to all police officers around the psychology in the work place. Really I thought another survey for police officers to complete on top of their demanding day job, and it is my understanding from previous surveys the response have been between 30 to 40%, so what are we doing to capture the responses of the other 60% of the force.  At this point in the meeting I had a brainwave, yes I really did!! And not only did I think of a what I perceived to be  great idea, different and radical before I could stop myself I was telling everyone in the meeting. Quite simply let’s start surveying the extending police family, by that let’s look to conduct a portfolio of surveys specifically target the officers recorded next of kin (NOK). With a view that we understand how:

  • The shifts and long hours are effecting officers and their home life
  • Understand if the NOK has noticed any changes to their partner/spouse/sibling when they are off duty.
  • Understand if the NOK if they had concerns would they know what to do, who to speak to, signposts
  • Identified any changes in the officers personality
  • Suffering from financial worries
  • Look to see if NOK are looking for support (spousal support)
  • Understanding what the NOK believes is an important role of the police force when it comes to providing support.

The above is not exhaustive however I believe that if there is anything happening to our officers, the family are going to be the first to recognise it and I want to be confident that they would know who they could talk to raise the matter, but also find out how the fact that the love one is in the police effects them to.

This is a big piece of work, however I can see real benefits, family don’t seem to hold back in tell it as it is, whereas sometimes as an serving officer myself, we don’t want to admit to the truth in case it is considered a weakness and used against us. For this piece of work I have a small working group set up including representation Legal, Federation, Unison, HR. I think GDPR will be a big issues and also getting the buy-in from officers to allow us to make the approach to NOK. I have scoped out to see if any force is doing anything similar and so far I have identified any force.

I would be interested in any views or suggestions and you can contact me via email: marie.gresswell@bedfordshire.pnn.police.ukCATEGORIESBlogsNewsProtecting the WorkforceSHARE


BLOG – Stress within the working environment by Marie Gresswell

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