If you’re feeling the effects of the darker evenings and longer nights, lifting weights could be the secret to boosting your mood
There is enough information available now for most of us to be aware that strength training is incredibly beneficial when it comes to our health – whether that involves weight-loss, weight maintenance, improving bone density or just overall positive ageing.
We know this, but how many of us actually do it on a regular basis? What if you were told that it can make a big difference to your mental health, particularly at this time of year?
Looking at how strength training can help beat the autumn/winter blues, especially for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), personal trainer and wellness coach Rachael Sacerdoti explains how it works.
“Studies have found that strength training releases a significant amount of dopamine in the brain, which helps elevate mood and improve overall mental health,” she says. “Incorporating weight lifting or bodyweight exercises into your routine can provide a sense of empowerment and accomplishment, boosting self-esteem and helping to alleviate SAD symptoms.”
She adds that while we often associate strength training with building muscles and sculpting our bodies, “its impact on mental health is too often overlooked.”
Strength training promotes the release of serotonin, a vital neurotransmitter that stabilises our mood, enhances cognitive function, and improves sleep quality – all of which can be negatively impacted by SAD.
Here are Rachael’s top tips to seasonal depression or anxiety:
- Compound the benefits: Incorporate exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. These compound movements not only provide an effective full-body workout but also trigger the release of a larger quantity of mood-enhancing endorphins.
- Progress beats perfection: Establishing realistic and attainable goals for your strength training journey will help boost your motivation and provide you with a sense of accomplishment. This can be as simple as gradually increasing the weights you lift or aiming for a certain number of repetitions.
- Mix it up: To prevent monotony and sustain long-term commitment, mix up your strength training routine with different exercises, equipment, or workout styles. Experimenting with new challenges not only keeps you engaged but also helps you avoid plateaus and maximizes the mental health benefits.
- Work, rest and play: Don’t underestimate the importance of rest and recovery days. Rachael stresses that “overtraining can lead to physical and mental burnout, which should be avoided at all costs.” Taking sufficient rest periods allows your body to repair and rebuild, ensuring you get the most out of your workouts.