Any physical movement is good for you and the evidence keeps piling up. A meta-analysis of the relationship between resistance exercise training (RET) and depression concludes that lifting weights does indeed help your mental health. Because studies usually look at only aspect of mental health we need more research looking across studies to provide a solid foundation and that’s what we’re seeing here.
One thing I realized when going to the gym is that it took weeks to get that positive feeling from working out. Don’t expect instance levity in your mood or skills. There’s no reason to start at the extreme by lifting way more than you can. Start with lighter weights and slowly work your way up to whatever you like.
After reviewing the literature, Gordon and team found that regardless of age, sex, or health status, RET is “associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms.” The largest gains were found in adults with elevated symptoms, which gave the researchers hope that RET “may be particularly helpful for reducing depression symptoms in people with greater depressive symptoms.” They also found that supervised workout sessions resulted in larger gains than in unsupervised sessions.
As Gordon says, it’s impossible to blind people for this sort of research—you know who is lifting weights and who is not. As with most studies, the placebo effect could be at work. But given all we know about the benefits of exercise, this is a placebo with few side effects (overexertion and muscle strains being the most prominent). The benefits outweigh any potential risk.