A Heavy Weight Off Your Mind
It's time to give yourself a lift: science says a barbell is more effective at crushing anxiety than the usual doctor's orders.
Of the three million people in the UK now wrestling with a diagnosable anxiety disorder, only a quarter are receiving treatment. It's a depressing statistic. The Mental Health Foundation blames today's insular culture, especially among men, which makes it difficult for us to talk about our problems. This culture is changing - but progress is slow.
Thankfully, according to research published in Sports Medicine, there is an alternative cure for those yet to open up, and it can be found at your local gym. Scientists have discovered that resistance training - be that a circuits class or chest session - can add muscle to your mental health.
That exercise boosts your mood is no new concept, and for those simply having a bad day, it remains a positive prescription. But what's most striking about this research is its suggestion that if you're struggling with anxiety or depression, time spent with a dumbbell in hand is more effective than medical treatments such as psychotherapy. Research has long focused on aerobic exercise, but this is one of the first studies to shine a spotlight on the cognitive benefits of shifting heavy metal.
And the effects don't wear off with your post-session pump.
Researchers have also linked resistance training to less shrinkage of your white matter - the tissue that connects and passes signals between different brain regions.
This network of nerve fibers can develop holes and lesions as you age, potentially leading to degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's. But lifting weights twice a week can slow this process, safeguarding your mental health both now and in the years to come. In short, if legs day sounds like a mind-numbing prospect, it's time to think again.