Want to quiet your racing mind? Take it to the gym: Weight training can help relieve your anxiety, a new meta-analysis in the journal Sports Medicine suggests.
That’s what researchers concluded after crunching the numbers from 16 previous studies on 922 participants. The lifting routine varied in each study, but ranged from two to five days per week for an average of 11 weeks, and included either lifting at moderate intensity—about 50 to 80 percent of your one-rep max—or high intensity, or above 80 percent of your one-rep max.
After completing the lifting program, the participants reported significant improvement in their anxiety symptoms. Healthy people—those without a physical or mental illness—received an even greater boost from pumping iron.
Two Types of Resistance Training:
It’s no surprise that exercise in general calms your raging mind, but most of the research in the past has linked the effects to cardio options, like running or cycling. And that may be because aerobic exercise boosts the production a protein in your brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which can help your brain resist stress, as we reported in the past.
This analysis, however, concludes that the anxiety-reducing effects of lifting is similar to that you’d get doing your cardio—welcome news for guys who’d rather push some weight rather than hit the treadmill.
The researchers aren’t sure exactly how lifting helps your brain, but they believe it may have to do with both the social and physiological effects of pumping iron. Lifting often has a social component, which can help ease stress, they write. But it also may help regulate monoamine neurotransmitters in your brain—including dopamine and serotonin, which play a role in mood. (Here are six other ways your brain benefits when your body is in great shape.)
Want to get started? These are the best workouts that will help you relieve stress. (You can also try The 21-Day MetaShred, the at-home workout from the Men’s Health that will help you build muscle and burn fat.) Weight Training Can Reduce Anxiety