While the benefits of exercise on physical health are well known; exercise has many other benefits.

In particular, resistance training, like weight lifting, is not just about being fit or muscular, it can also improve emotional and mental health.

A large study looked at resistance training and anxiety.

What was the study? (1,2)

This was review of 16 studies looking at resistance training like lifting weights (1,2)

Who was studied?

922 participants (1,2).

What was measured?

Validated anxiety outcome measures prior to, at mid-point, and after a period of resistance training (1,2).

What were the results? (1,2)

  • Resistance training significantly reduced anxiety symptoms (Δ = 0.31, 95% CI 0.17–0.44; z= 4.43; p < 0.001) (1,2).
  • Larger effects were found among healthy participants (Δ = 0.50, 95% CI 0.22–0.78) compared to participants with a physical or mental illness (Δ = 0.19, 95% CI 0.06–0.31, z= 2.16, p < 0.04). (1,2).
  • Effect sizes did not  vary much according to sex, program or session length, frequency or intensity. (1,2).

What are some other mental health benefits of exercise?

  • A review of 15 years of research shows that exercise can improve brain function (4)
  • A study of 33,000 people over 11 years demonstrated that exercise may prevent depression with 1-2 hours PER WEEK of exercise (5).
  • May help reduce alcohol use disorder (6)
  • Reduce chronic fatigue (7)
  • Improve sleep (8)

How much should I exercise?

The recommended exercise duration according to The National Institute of Health’s “Physical activity guidelines for Americans” (9, 10):

  • For moderate intensity activity, 20 to 42 minutes a day (150minutes to 300 minutes per week).
  • For vigorous intensity activity, 10 to 21 minutes a day (75 to 150 minutes a week).

What are some examples of moderate and vigorous intensity activities? (9, 10)

  • Some examples of moderate intensity activities include walking, water aerobics, slow bike rides, etc.
  • Some examples of vigorous intensity activities include jogging/running, Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster, lifting weights/resistance band training.

What are some precautions?

  • It may be best to check with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe for you’re to start an exercise program.
  • It may be wise to stop exercise and seek professional help if you notice:
    • Increased depression, disordered eating, and other mental health concerns.
    • Injury, pain, or decreased motivation
    • Obsessive behaviors
    • Other symptoms.
  • Exercise may not help without proper nutrition.
  • It may be wise to learn about proper nutrition and proper exercise technique, and exercise/nutrition plans, before starting to exercise.
  • It may be helpful to gradually start exercising to give yourself time to adjust to an active lifestyle.
  • It might take weeks months or longer for some people to get used to and enjoy the minimum activity guidelines.
  • Occasional periods without exercise may be important to prevent injury.
  • Figuring out what works best for you may give you lasting benefits.

Any useful resources on campus?

Any other useful links?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.


  1. Gordon, B.R., McDowell, C.P., Lyons, M. et al. Sports Med (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0769-0
  2. The Effects of Resistance Exercise Training on Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.
  3. https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/RTandMentalHealth.html
  4. O’Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Carvalho, A. (2010). Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.
  5. Koščak Tivadar, B. Biogerontology (2017) 18: 477. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-017-9708-6. Physical activity improves cognition: possible explanations.
  6. Harvey SB, Øverland S, Hatch SL, Wessely S, Mykletun A, Hotopf M. Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study.   Am J Psychiatry.2017 Oct 3:appiajp201716111223. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223. [Epub ahead of print]
  7. Hallgren, Mats et al. “More Reasons to Move: Exercise in the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 8 (2017): 160. PMC. Web. 20 Oct. 2017.
  8. Larun L, Brurberg KG, Odgaard-Jensen J, Price JR. Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003200. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003200.pub7.
  9. Kovacevic AMavros YHeisz JJFiatarone Singh MA. The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev.2017 Jul 19. pii: S1087-0792(16)30152-6. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2017.07.002. [Epub ahead of print].
  10. https://health.gov/paguidelines/


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