Systematic review found that resistance training reduced depressive symptoms among adults

This recent systematic review evaluated the effect of resistance exercise training in people with depressive symptoms. The primary outcome was depressive symptoms measured with a validated scale. Four moderator variables were selected a priori and their contribution to the variation in the effect size was tested through meta-regression: total volume of prescribed resistance exercise training, participant’s health status, whether or not allocation was concealed and/or assessment of outcome measures was blinded, and whether or not the resistance exercise training intervention resulted in a significant improvement in strength. The review included 54 comparisons from 33 randomised controlled trials (1,877 participants). 25 trials evaluated participants with physical or mental illness. Health care professionals fully supervised the strength training in 25 comparisons, while seven were a combination of supervised and unsupervised sessions and one was unsupervised. The mean duration of the resistance exercise training was 16 weeks (range 6 to 52 weeks). The frequency of training sessions ranged from 2 to 7 days per week. The pooled effect size (Hedges d) was 0.66 (95% confidence interval 0.48 to 0.83). Meta-regression revealed that among the moderator variables, only concealed allocation and/or blinding of outcome assessment influenced the effect size. A comparison between resistance training and aerobic training revealed that the two interventions had similar effects. This review has shown that resistance exercise training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms regardless of the participant’s characteristics (i.e. age, sex and health status) or features of training (i.e. program duration, session duration, intensity, frequency, or total prescribed volume).

Listen to Norman Swan interview Brett Gordon (a doctoral student from the University of Limerick who is the lead author of this review) for ABC Radio National’s Health Report.

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(6):566-76

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