Participants who performed weight training for eight weeks scored about 20 percent better on anxiety questionnaires at the end of the study

By Claudia Harmata
November 04, 2020 01:10 PM
Advertisement
Credit: Getty

A new study has found that lifting weights may help reduce anxiety.

According to the study  published in Scientific Reports last month, researchers found that weight training "significantly reduced anxiety symptoms" in the young men and women who participated in the study.

Researchers recruited 28 physically healthy young adults who also all scored in a healthy range on anxiety questionnaires. They then divided the volunteers and asked half to continue their normal lives as a control group and the other half to begin a weight training routine designed by researchers.

The routine was based on guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American College of Sports Medicine. It asked the participants to engage in muscle-strengthening exercises with dumbbells or other equipment twice a week, including lunges, lifts, squats and crunches.

Over the course of eight weeks, both groups were routinely asked to repeat the anxiety questionnaires.

At the end of the study, the group that began weight training scored about 20 percent better than their original scores, reporting even lower levels of anxiety than when they started. Meanwhile, the control group stayed about the same.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Dr. Brett Gordon, a postdoctoral scholar at the Penn State Cancer Institute at Penn State College of Medicine, who was a co-author of the study, told The New York Times that the impact of the weight training on the group's anxiety levels was "larger than anticipated."

However, he clarified that the study did not explore how weight training may affect anxiety through molecular changes in the mind and body.

But, researchers did notice that the exercises left participants feeling stronger over time which left them feeling more capable of coping with their anxiety.

That finding is why Gordon feels comfortable encouraging people experiencing feelings of tension to try taking up weight training in their free time.

"There are numerous ways to strength train with little to no equipment," he said. "Try common bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, sit-ups or squats, or use household items as weights."

A previous study in 2018 had similar results when looking at weight training and depression.

It found that people with mild to moderate depression who performed resistance training at least two days a week saw "significant" reductions in their symptoms, compared with people who did not, according to Harvard Health.