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.

“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.

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Published on Reuters June 13, 2018