Strength training has such a good effect against depression that it can be considered a clinical treatment, researchers conclude in a major review of the research.

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This emerges in an article on the webiste


Review study

They write further:

Some studies indicate that exercise counteracts depression, but there are also some studies that do not show any significant effect. The verdict has thus been unclear. That may now change.

A large review of research in the field, a so-called meta-analysis, shows that strength training several times a week has a positive effect.

- Strength training reduces the symptoms so effectively that it has clinical significance. It is about as effective as medication, says Mats Hallgren, associate professor at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. He is a co-author of the new meta-analysis that has been published in the journal JAMA.


Support for strength training as an alternative or complementary treatment

In their research article, the researchers summarize the findings as follows:

In this meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials that included 1877 participants, it was found that "resistance exercise training" was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, with a moderate effect size. 

They conclude: that the available evidence base supports strength training as an alternative or complementary therapy for depressive symptoms.


Antidepressant effect also asks the question of why physical strength training has an effect on mental health, and they emphasize that it may have something to do with the causes of depression. More specifically, they refer to comments from Pernille Højman who is a senior researcher at the Center for Inflammation and Metabolism at Rigshospitalet in Denmark. She tells:

- In almost all depressed people, a high level of inflammation is seen in the blood, and it is probably a contributing cause [to the depression]. elaborates:

Inflammation causes the body to convert the substance tryptophan, which is also used to produce the "happiness hormone" serotonin, into substances that negatively affect brain cells.

- When you do strength training, you activate the muscle cells and make them absorb tryptophan. Therefore, it makes good sense that this is exactly what should work, says Højman.



  • Strength training helps with depression.
  • Gordon, BR, McDowell, CP, Hallgren, M., Meyer, JD, Lyons, M., & Herring, MP (2018). Association of Efficacy of resistance exercise training with depressive symptoms: meta-analysis and meta-regression analysis of randomized clinical trials. JAMA psychiatry75