Get Strong – why strength training is good for mental wellbeing

It is well-known and well-documented that exercise in general makes us feel good, but a common question is how lifting weights specifically affects our mood.

In recent years, strength training has become increasingly popular as it has benefits for individuals of every age. People are becoming increasingly aware that lifting weights can prevent a variety of age-related illnesses and conditions.

Those who are already members of the Iceni team are undoubtedly aware of how amazing it makes them feel. They have learnt for themselves that it helps boost self-confidence and improves their own body image. They are aware that it improves their mood when they are feeling worried, anxious, or a bit down, but how much evidence exists on the long-term impact of strength training on mental health?

The answer is not enough, although more and more are starting to emerge. We looked at what the existing scientific evidence tells us.

Lifting weights lifts moods

The addition of weights to a regular workout regimen has been demonstrated to increase muscle tone, reduce injury risk, and promote bone health. Yet, its effects may extend beyond the physical, as data suggests that regular strength training may prevent and treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. In 2017, JAMA Psychiatry researchers explored the relationship between anxiety and resistance training and concluded that lifting weights can help people feel less anxious and tense.

The same researchers did another evaluation of dozens of studies on the topic of “Association of Resistance Exercise Training with Depressive Symptoms” the following year. In a nutshell, the evaluation examined the existing evidence to determine whether resistance training is effective in treating the symptoms of depression. In simple terms, the conclusion of the review was that patients with depression generally felt better after beginning weight training. Yet if they began the experiment with “normal” mental health, they were less likely to develop depression than those who did not engage in weight training. Curiously, the number of weekly weight training sessions seems to be irrelevant. The effects were virtually the same whether individuals attended to the gym twice per week or five times per week, and whether they performed many or few repetitions of each exercise.

Age also appeared to have little bearing on the results. Lifting weights had the same effect on younger lifters (typically students) as it did on middle-aged and older individuals. In addition, the data demonstrated that increasing muscular mass was unnecessary to alleviate depression. At the conclusion of the experiment, greater strength did not necessarily correlate with decreased depression. The most important shared component was actually exercising, thus even people who observed modest physical benefits from strength training tended to have mood enhancements.

Unfortunately, only a few of the studies included a distinct group that engaged in aerobic exercise as opposed to weight training, making it difficult to compare the benefits of the various types of workouts. The results seem to indicate that weight training and aerobic exercise have similar effects on depression, but because the number of participants in the trials was small, a bigger study is necessary to distinguish between the two.

In conclusion, resistance training, such as lifting weights, frequently improves depressive symptoms dramatically, independent of how depressed individuals initially feel or how frequently they train.

But how exactly does lifting weights boost mental wellbeing?

It is believed that resistance training alters parts of the brain, including neurochemical levels that affect mood. Yet, we should consider the possibility of a placebo effect. If individuals anticipate feeling better after a workout, they do.

Social engagement and social support may also contribute to enhanced mental health during exercise. Likewise does better self-esteem. A healthy sense of self-worth and value is an essential component of psychological wellness.

In addition to contributing to an increase in self-belief, self-confidence, and overall happiness, the sense of accomplishment derived from attaining goals in the gym may also play a role. This is particularly true when achieving a what was previously impossible goal to achieve.


There is no conclusive evidence that resistance training is superior to other forms of exercise for combating depression, or that exercise can or should replace traditional therapies, including medication. However, the available data indicates that lifting weights a few times per week is an effective way to improve mental health.

WHO presently advises that persons between the ages of 18 and 64 engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.

Despite the lack of strong scientific data, anybody who lifts weights understands how fantastic it makes them feel. There is no greater sensation than becoming physically and mentally stronger, gaining confidence, and learning to appreciate your body as you realise how incredible it is, both during and after a workout and over the long term. Whether it’s a physical response or a psychological placebo effect, lifting weights makes us happy!

Contact us if you’re interested in strength training advice or would like to get started. No matter where you are on the path to positive mental health, our knowledgeable Coaches are available to assist you. We assist novices all the way up to seasoned athletes, as well as everyone in between.

Our mission is to assist individuals in living their best lives outside the gym by offering the highest quality personal training in Colchester. please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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