According to a comprehensive research review by O’Connor et al., the mental health benefits of resistance training for adults include reduction of symptoms in people with fatigue, anxiety, and depression; pain alleviation in people with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and low-back issues; improvements in cognitive abilities in older adults; and improvements in self-esteem. While there is considerable evidence that appropriate resistance training reduces low back pain, arthritic discomfort, and pain associated with fibromyalgia, this section will address the effects of resistance training on cognition and psychological measures. Concerning cognition, much of the research has been conducted with older adults, and most of the studies have featured endurance exercise alone or combined aerobic activity and resistance training. However, studies using only resistance training interventions have shown significant improvement in cognitive abilities.
In a meta-analysis by Colcombe and Kramer, aerobic activity plus resistance training produced significantly greater cognitive improvement in inactive older adults than aerobic activity alone. According to O’Connor et al., self-esteem, as a global concept of one’s perception of himself or herself, relatively is stable over time and less likely to be affected by physical training than other psychological measures. Nonetheless, positive changes in self-esteem as a result of resistance training have been reported in older adults, younger adults, women, cancer patients, and participants of cardiac rehabilitation. With respect to other psychological measures, studies by Annesi et al. have shown 10 week of combined resistance training and aerobic activity to improve significantly physical self-concept, total mood disturbance, depression, fatigue, positive engagement, revitalization, tranquility, and tension in adults and older adults. Depression is a serious mental health issue that may be associated with decreased functionality, especially in older adults.
In their comprehensive review, O’Connor et al. noted that at least four studies have examined the effects of resistance training on depression levels in clinically depressed individuals, and at least 18 studies have examined the effects of resistance training on depression symptoms in healthy adults or adults with medical problems. Although these trials produced mixed results, the review authors concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support resistance training as an effective intervention for reducing depression symptoms in adults with depression .
Singh et al have researched the effects of resistance training on depression in elderly individuals. In a classic study, they found that more than 80% of the depressed elders who performed three weekly sessions of resistance training were no longer clinically depressed after just 10 weeks of exercise. Based on these studies, it would appear that resistance training is associated with reduced depression levels in older adults.