Resistance Exercise and its effect on Depression


Depression is a condition that affects one in five Australians between 16- 85[1]. There are varying degrees of depression ranging from very mild to clinically depressed individuals that cannot even manage to get out of bed and many even have suicidal thoughts. Generally depression does not result from a single event, and whilst the exact cause is not known, a combination of recent events and other longer-term or personal factors are usually associated with its development.[2] There are many treatment options available for individuals with depression with exercise being a commonly used form or treatment that has shown to be very effective. [3]

Signs and Symptoms of Depression:

• Lowered self Esteem (self-worth) [4] [5]

• Changes in sleep patterns, insomnia or broken sleep

• Changes in appetite or weight

• Lowered energy levels

• Reduced capacity to experience pleasure

• Decreased sex drive

• Decreased motivation

• Poor concentration

Types of Treatment

There are numerous treatments for individuals affected by depression, however the main forms of treatment are:

• Psychological [6]

  • Counselling
  • Cognitive Behaviour therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Mindfulness therpay

• Medication [7]

  • anti- depressants

• Exercise [8]

• Diet

• Family/Friend support

How Exercise affects the brain:

- Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins within approximately 30 minutes from the start of activity which assists in mood enhancement [9]

- Exercise activates molecular and cellular cascades that support and maintain brain plasticity

- Promotes brain vascularization, neurogenesis (or the creation of new neurons), functional changes in neuronal structure and neuronal resistance to injury.

What is Resistance Training:

Resistance Training is exercise that increases strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force. Resistance or strength training includes free weights, machines, resistance bands or your own body weight. Generally resistance exercise is categorised as a Low to moderate intensity type of exercise, which is recommended by health experts for those suffering depression, however it can also be included as part of high intensity training such as circuit training.

Effect of Resistance training on Depression

Research indicates that resistance exercise can have positive effect on individuals suffering from depression. The general consensus among health professionals is that as long as an individual is participating in some form of moderate exercise there are usually positive effects on individuals affected by depression

- Reduces sensitivity to stress[10]

- Improved self esteem

- Improved strength

- anti-depressive and anxiolytic effects

- increases endogenous opioid activity in the peripheral and central nervous system

Exercise Recommendations

The Australian department of health recommends that adults aged between 18 -64 follow the following guidelines in relation to exercise. [11]



  1. Facts and Figures about mental health and mood disorders, Black Dog Institue pdf, 2012, (accessed 26 September 2014
  2. What causes Depression, (accessed 21 September 2014)
  3. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed, Lynette L. Craft, Ph.D. and Frank M. Perna, Ed.D., Ph.D., Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2004 6 (3) 104-11
  4. Depression Explained , (accessed 21 September 2014)
  5. Signs and Symptoms, (accessed 21 September 2014)
  6. Psychological treatments for depression,, (accessed 29 September 2014)
  7. Medical treatment for Depression, (accessed 29 September 2014)
  8. Other Sources of Support,, (accessed 29 September 2014)
  9. The Effects of Exercise on the Brain, MK McGovern, (accessed 21 September 2014)
  10. EFFECTS OF PHYSICAL EXERCISE ON ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, AND SENSITIVITY TO STRESS: A UNIFYING THEORY; Peter Salmon; University of Liverpool; Clinical Psychology Review, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 33–61, 2001
  11. Physical Activity Guidelines,$File/brochure%20PA%20Guidelines_A5_18-64yrs.PDF, (accessed 17 September 2014)