Lifting weights, Running, Anxiety & Depression.

'Lifting weights can lower feelings of depression and more.' - Recently the Irish Times highlighted a research paper published in the ‘JAMA Psychiatry international journal’.

Brett R.Gordan from the University of Limerick, wrote that strength training is “free from the negative side effects and high costs of many medications and therapies”.


This is true however lets firstly take a few vital notes of reading papers like this:

  1. Don't jump to any decisions and lower medication after reading an article like this. 
  2. Consult your doctor before altering medication. 
  3. Understand the personal circumstances of the data acquired by the scientists. 


This post is to shed light on what I have observed in clients who work with managing anxiety and or depression. Please note that this is as a Coach and an observer of what happens when a client experiences a good professional service. We are not counsellors nor are we qualified on giving advice on mental health. 

Firstly note that it is widely renowned that training in general releases temporary good feel hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. So don’t go changing anything just yet until you set a few ground rules for yourself. 


  1. Your coach guides you with exercise. Nothing else.


As coaches it is our responsibility to guide you through a healthy exercise regime. Not help clients with depression or anxiety. This is something we as Coaches and Personal trainers are not qualified in. So if you are struggling, consult your coach of course and ask them if they have any suggestions of counsellors or therapists that they trust as effective professionals. However, within your consultation we also need to know these things when it comes to programming exercise and setting out a regime. Anxiety and exercise work wonders together however it also needs to be managed. 

Lifting weights V’s Cardio

After spending 8 years distance running I can safely say that after 6 years of weight training I Personally am truly happier than I was when I was running. 

But why?

My PERSONAL opinion is:

  1. Im always learning new skills so it stimulates my brain and settles my need for growth and learning (we all have that need). 
  2. Its not monotonous. I found a long 60 minute run to be great. However, usually it was done on my own and personally my headspace was wandering during my teens… Didn’t help me to be left with your thoughts for an hour with nobody to talk to it seems. Im a people person. I need to be around people, to feel part of something.
  3. I feel I can always get stronger. I feel that there will always be part of my body which will need to get stronger. For example  I have very weak hamstring insertion points (to be exact…( which effects my squat a lot. By isolating these alone its fantastic to note after 4,5,6 weeks that ‘oh I can do 10 more reps now than I could 6 weeks ago.’ I do feel that thats huge. Whereas running I find plateaus very quickly and the only measure is how fast you get from A to B. 
  4. It allows you to meet all kinds of people. 

Usually, the distance running and jogging meant you ran with others who could keep up with you. I like to brag that I would have been one of the guys at the front on my better days which was nice. However, the big strong muscly guy could never run with me or keep up. He just lifted weights. 


In the gym however you have all different body types. Not necessarily trying to put on muscle mass and lose weight. But everyone has different goals. 


To be honest as well. It's a LOT more fun.


Because the environment is controlled with music from the coach to effect energy levels (loads of research on that and mental health). Theres energy in the room as everyone is working on their personal goals and they all want to see you achieve. 

Theres testing / evaluation every 6 weeks so you have a gang of people around you cheering you on for YOU. Not to compete against anyone else necessarily but to see you achieve and grow. 

Everyone is in the same boat. The same room. 

There are 7 human needs. All of which can be received in a good group training setting.

Need 1: Certainty/Comfort. The first human need is the need for Certainty. ...

Need 2: Uncertainty/Variety. ...

Need 3: Significance. ...

Need 4: Love & Connection. ...

Need 5: Growth. ...

Need 6: Contribution.

All of which I have experienced at some point in the RIGHT gym setting. However rest assured, if the gym is NOT for you. Then it is not for you. But like anything, try it first (for a considerable amount of time OR find the right place for you). 

p.s commercial gyms will not provide you with all of the above. 


References / Resources


Weightlifting could be as effective as taking antidepressants

Larry Brady