Depression: strength training significantly reduces symptoms


The benefits of exercise on health, mood, sleep, prevention or recovery from a health problem are constantly being updated. You might as well get started now.

Depression affects more than 150 million people around the world, with economic costs estimated at more than 118 billion annually. In addition to affecting mental health, depression also dramatically increases the risk of several diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy are currently the first line treatments for depression. However, the effectiveness of antidepressants is still limited in people with mild to moderate depressive symptoms, while psychotherapy can be expensive, difficult to access, and / or may not necessarily work. There is therefore clearly an interest in identifying distinct approaches that can alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Depression: medication not always successful and not without side effects

Several studies carried out in recent years indicate that exercise represents one of these alternative approaches. Regular physical activity causes no side effects (unlike drugs), is inexpensive (unlike psychotherapy) and generates a host of health benefits in terms of preventing major chronic diseases. Notably, regular exercise is known to greatly reduce the risk of premature mortality from cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death for people with depression.

So far The link between physical activity and depression has mainly been studied for intense aerobic exercise, and studies clearly show that this type of exercise has significant benefits on the severity of depressive symptoms. On the other hand, aerobic exercise does not suit everyone’s tastes or abilities, and it remains to be seen whether other types of exercise can also have positive effects in people with depression.

At least two physical activity sessions per week according to the WHO

Another type of exercise which is within everyone’s reach is strength training. Studies show that resistance training is essential not only for improving strength and endurance, but also for general improvement of health, and that these benefits add up to those that come from aerobic exercise. It is for this reason that organizations promoting physical activity such as the American College of Sports Medicine or the World Health Organization recommend at least two muscle training sessions per week, in addition to the minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity.

Symptoms like moodiness, lack of interest and feelings of worthlessness subside

A meta-analysis published this summer in JAMA Psychiatry examined the effect of resistance training on symptoms of depression measured in clinical trials conducted with 1877 people. Researchers observed that people who exercised this type of exercise regularly (2-3 times per week) reported a significant reduction in several depressive symptoms, such as low mood, lack of interest and feelings of worthlessness. compared to those who were inactive. The greatest improvement was noted in those with mild to moderate depressive symptoms, an interesting result since it is precisely these people who respond least well to antidepressant drugs.

He It should also be noted that the reduction in symptoms of depression seen in people who exercise resistance is not associated with the duration and intensity of the exercise, nor with the improvement in physical fitness that results from the activity. physical. In other words, the simple act of doing this type of exercise, regardless of its “physical” effects on strength and endurance, is sufficient to generate positive effects on mood.

Exercise and the Mediterranean diet: the optimal combination

In addition to exercise, studies show that eating habits can also positively influence the severity of symptoms of depression. For example, a French study recently reported that the adoption of an anti-inflammatory Mediterranean-type diet (rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish and grains) is associated with a decrease in 33% risk of depression. Conversely, they observed that a pro-inflammatory Western-type diet, that is to say poor in plants, but rich in meats and cold cuts, in products made from refined flour and in sweets, is associated with at an increased risk of depression. Like all cells in the body, the function of neurons in the brain is strongly influenced by the conditions prevailing in the body and it goes without saying that the creation of a chronic inflammatory climate can only have negative repercussions on the functions. mental. This would therefore explain why a healthy diet and regular physical exercise, both of which have a strong anti-inflammatory action, can improve mood and decrease the frequency and intensity of episodes of depression.


Gordon BR et al. Association of efficacy of resistance exercise training with depressive symptoms: meta-analysis and meta-regression analysis of randomized clinical trials. JAMA Psychiatry 2018; 75: 566 – 576.

Fournier JC et al. Antidepressant drug effects and depression severity: a patient-level meta-analysis. JAMA 303: 33 – 53.

Lassale C et al. Healthy dietary indices and risk of depressive outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Mol. Psychiatry 2018,

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