So -- I strongly suspect survival bias here. It might even be true that weightlifting is an effective treatment for depression, but it would be awfully hard to get a negative result because you can't get depressed people to do it.
Today was a shit day, because I hadn't slept well. My motivation was sapped. I managed to drag my ass to the gym anyway. Maybe a more profoundly depressed version of myself wouldn't have done so, but being in that delicate stage requires a different sort of special attention and time to recover.
My breed of depression makes it so I self-neglect, but in a way that's kind of physically harmful. This means going to the gym, not sleeping, overworking, and not eating correctly. Just kind of terrible emotionally avoidant behavior.
It has made me truly believe that a healthy body can help make a healthy mind.
It has a very noticeable effect on me, to the point that honestly I can't understand how people who don't exercise manage to stay above water.
When I've been injured enough to not be doing other stuff, it's often an ankle or knee injury so I can't go for a nice walk either.
I think a part of me deliberately designs daily routines and workloads that don't leave room for doing things for myself, and it's a subtle and tricky thing to catch. Once you do, it's clear, but up until that point it all seems organic and just how things ended up.
It's one thing to say to a depressed individual "go lift weights, it will make you feel better." It's another thing to set up a series of appointments that are handled as seriously as medical appointments.
I do know that my eating habits have had a lot more effect, and even following a trainer's advice doesn't always work as well as some experimentation and tweaking on one's own.
I recently bought a house with a pool... I try to spend an hour a few times a week in there. The motivation is harder at times than others (I'm in Phoenix and it's just not anything resembling pleasant until after sunset).
As far as eating goes, when I need an energy boost in the morning (a couple times a month) I will do a Bulletproof Coffee (BPC) with a little flavored stevia (vanilla/caramel). I get the majority of my calories in a huge lunch (mostly paleo/keto minded). And if I haven't hit my macro target for the day, will have a smaller snack/meal 4-5 hours later. No snacking, and no sweet drinks between meals. As long as I don't stray too often (office bagels, muffins, doughnuts etc make it super hard), it's been incredibly effective. Lost about 60# last year.
> Adherence or compliance was reported in 15 of the 33 RCTs; the mean (SD) adherence rate was 78% (18%). Of the 18 remaining RCTs that did not report adherence or compliance, 2 reported attendance rates, which ranged from 87.5% ^53^ to 94%. ^71^
Of course, they also note that reporting of compliance should be better done and intention-to-treat analysis should either be done or specified to have been done.
Also, does lifting a toddler count? (No sarcasm.)
Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.
The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.
The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.
Given the state of replication in social sciences, though, I'm inclined to be very skeptical of the paper at first blush, given that it is a meta study . Especially since many of the studies cited in the meta studied show no effect or a negative effect, and it's completely possible that additional studies showing no effect or a negative effect were never published or even terminated early because null results are uninteresting.
All exercise is good for depression, but there's a definite psychological difference from lifting heavy weights. I feel more confident when I weightlift regularly. It feels good to be strong and fills something primal in me that running didn't necessarily do. Especially when you're actively resisting and pushing against something heavy. It's like battling an opponent.
It gives a cardio workout rather than just strength training.
It turns out skeletal muscle is important as metabolic tissue, with implications for brain function among other things.
And this story from a few years back was a great read as well
I can't read the full paper, but it seems like "weightlifting"/"lifting weights" may not have been the only exercise throughout the 33 studies. It also seems like any kind of resistance exercise, regardless of how you did it or how well it worked, made people less depressed. If that's true, you could lift 2-lbs weights for 10 minutes and feel better.
> however, smaller reductions in depressive symptoms were derived from trials with blinded allocation and/or assessment.
In short, red muscle it produces KAT enzymes that break down kynurenine, which is a substance produced by stress that is associated with all kinds of mental illnesses, like inducing depression, if it remains at elevated levels for longer periods of time. So it protects you from depression by removing one of the substances that causes it. IIRC, kynurenine is then turned into kynurenic acid, which then activates white fat and turns it into "beige fat", a kind of almost-brown fat (so the healthier kind). So it has even more benefits!
I asked during the Q&A if they recommend endurance exercise, or weightlifting, and they said that in their tests, it was specifically the muscles that you develop during endurance training that produce this protective enzyme.
Tell me this power-squatting cyclist lacks endurance:
You're right of course. What I meant was that I presume it doesn't build red muscle as quickly as other sports. What we need is a comparison of, say, running, cycling, and weightlifting to see if there is a difference in effectiveness. Because if weightlifting works just as well, there might be other factors at play that are worth investigating.
I had to keep lifting, at worse, every other day. If I rested for two days, on the second day I was completely miserable. Like non-functional, despondent, etc. When I injured myself and couldn't lift for months, I fell into the worst depression of my life.
My advice would have been the same if I had said to be careful about abruptly stopping a medication.
My lifting injury was related to my sciatic nerve. I could barely walk for months and sitting or standing for any length of time was a challenge. Taking on any other kind of physical activity was out of the question. The effect on my mood and the depressive episode stopping my workouts triggered was a pretty significant problem.
If you're a depressive and you suddenly start doing something majorly physically-taxing, get really good training and be very, very careful. But I had great programming and an industry-leading coach and I still got hurt.
> In this meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials including 1877 participants, resistance exercise training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, with a moderate-sized mean effect. Total volume of resistance exercise training, health status, and strength improvements were not associated with the antidepressant effect; however, smaller reductions in depressive symptoms were derived from trials with blinded allocation and/or assessment.
This repeats many findings. Exercise seems to work as a treatment for depression until you start using good quality study design when the benefits over placebo reduce.
Not sure if you meant to say "isn't as good', since that has a very different meaning and it's what's actually stated in your quote:
> smaller reductions in depressive symptoms
Do I think it would help my health? Yes, outside of some absurd circles, absolutely.
Do I think it would improve my self-confidence? Probably, if I stuck with it, but I sincerely doubt that I would because of the heavy incentives against it.
Am I just being obstinate and stubborn if I acknowledge it would likely help but am still not doing it? I have no safe answer to that question. "No" is clearly wrong, but "Yes" dismisses the problems.
Here's my problem: Exercise is extremely uncomfortable. It's hot, humiliating, and painful. If I push through that...it's 10 seconds later and I'm more hot, more humiliated (even with no one else around) and in more discomfort. I can push through again, but my brain is well aware of what to expect. There's no "endorphin high", no sense of satisfaction. Those are at least many days off in even the smallest of quantities (for me at least - people that cheerfully tell me of their "good pain" just make me feel more misunderstood/disregarded/ a failure). All the benefits are theoretical and in future, with benefits that equal the costs even further out, while all the costs and pain are up front. Humans are bad at managing such equations - I certainly am.
Even this awareness is a sense of failure. Am I making excuses, or do I really feel more pain and less "good pain" than other people? Either answer is not good for me. And these are what my brain focuses on while suffering. Listen to music? Read a book? Watch a movie? Everything is made harder because I'm literally struggling, and so every moment of discomfort progresses at a snail's pace. I've been exercising for...45 seconds?!
I know I can't get a training montage that is effortless, but there has to be something that makes me far more able to sit down and struggle through a mental activity for hours than to struggle through a physical activity for 5 minutes, much less the actual time (and repeated time) needed for any improvement. Not that mental exercise is easy - I have plenty of mental tasks I've been procrastinating on - but I have successes there where I have none in the physical arena.
I've tried various ways - small frequent things at home, team things, sport-focused, fewer high intensity things, just taking walks. So far the closest success was fencing, where I started to feel some of my aches and muscle pains were satisfying while hurting...but every class was an effort, both to sacrifice the time and to face the pain, and once I dropped I stayed dropped. That was 20 pounds ago so I know trying again would be MORE painful than before.
I'm left interested in the result while having no interest in attempting (again) without some reason to think this time will be different.
But really, after a certain point, MAKING time to exercise is a bit like brushing your teeth, doing your taxes, managing your finances, and showering regularly: It's something you have to do as an adult or face the consequences.
Does exercise give you more energy? Does exercise help with depression? Is exercise REQUIRED to be a healthy individual? Over and over again the research has shown the answer is a resounding YES.
Personally, I like Jocko Willink's advice about gyms: Home gyms are essential. They are much less hassle. You don't have to pack a bag, commute to the gym, deal with the other gym people, shower, commute home, and collapse after a two hour gym adventure. You can just throw on your gym clothing, walk into your garage, throw some music or a podcast on the radio, and get to work.
Back in 2014 I got past that. Worked out 2 a days, 5 days a week, dieted hard too, dropped 60 lbs and felt the best in my life, had fun working out and setting performance goals. That lasted about two years.
After the two years I had a shitty 2 months, depressed and drinking. I gained back 40lbs and now I'm back to square one. Working out is boring and a chore. I _remember_ a time when I felt differently about it.
I suspect a lot of the "boredom" comes from the low-grade anxiety of feeling busy or feeling my time is better spent progressing in my interest or towards some other goal.
I recommend to friends that are starting a workout routine to first focus on finding something active that they enjoy doing and can keep at it. Rock climbing, running, lifting etc. Don't make it terrible and don't set expectations, just have fun with it.
My 2 cents is I love Crossfit. The coach-run sessions are about as close as you can get to a trainer without having to pay for a trainer. Plus the constant variation solved my challenges with "workout design". Anyway, that's what works for me but I believe there's something out there for everybody. Just keep it chill in the beginning and focus more on building a routine than results. 3 days of exercise a week is a win!
I would say a few things to this. Regarding the comfort level:
First, exercise is fucking brutal for the first few weeks, and then you just get used to the brutality. It never gets easy, but you do get used to being uncomfortable pretty quickly. Second, unless you're on some sort of program where you can measure progress granularly, you're going to quit. The enjoyable part of activities like lifting is seeing yourself make demonstrable progress over time in terms of weight being moved for X amount of repetitions. If you just come in and do a bunch of random shit as opposed to a structured program, you will never see that progress because what you are doing is inefficient; you will get bored or discouraged; and you will quit.
Check out a program like strong lifts or starting strength if you are interested in strength training. Those are the canonical beginner programs.
Regarding the humiliation aspect:
I've never understood this idea of feeling humiliated at the gym or while starting a new sport. Everyone starts out as a noob in lifting, even that guy who is squatting six plates easily. No one just shows up and immediately has success, so it makes no sense to be embarrassed about being a beginner.
Many new lifters believe that experienced lifters judge them for the amount of weight they are moving. I can tell you this is not true. I would never judge someone who is squatting the bar or 65 lbs or whatever as long as they are attempting to use good form; I would assume that person is a beginner, and would be pleased that they are focusing on fundamentals early. I am also always happy to critique form or provide advice to new lifters, as it is an opportunity to teach and I enjoy cultivating interest and knowledge in my sport. Amusingly, so many noobs are so afraid to look ignorant or weak that they never ask for help, reinforce terrible technique patterns, and then get to a point where they are moving weight they clearly cannot handle well with terrible form. At this point, experienced lifters WILL judge you harshly, so why not just engage them early on and get free help and camaraderie?
Regarding embarking on a diet or exercise routine. I posted some general advice on how to properly get started (mostly with dieting) and how to think about best practices here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15604761
I don't, either, but, because of that, I wouldn't presume to give out advice regarding this aspect without first understanding better what it is.
Too often, especially in the realm of mental illness (if I may work in the original article topic), advice comes from good intentions but ignorance, and that can be unhelpful, if not insulting.
I happen to have much of the same experience with exercise as the original commenter, except that it was not always so, which makes for an odd perspective.
I know what was, at least, previously possible, including the relatively immediate benefits of endorphin high and feeling more energized later that day and/or the following day. It's just that somewhere along the line of too many years of essentially no exercise at all, that stopped happening. Now, even a small amount of exercise (10-15 minutes of cardio, like walking) will result in feeling extra-lousy later that day and/or the following day, instead.
Given even this knowledge, I can tell you that the cliches (which, your advice is one of, if one of the better ones) just don't provide an actionable potential solution.
The vast majority of people may not have quite this hard of a problem to address, and maybe not even the majority of people suffering from depression, but that's part of what I would say makes depression so hard is that it can present with (or be co-morbid with) other issues that, were they not so hard, might make the depression "itself" much easier to treat.
 I only use quotes because of the lack of distinct lines between symptoms of depression and disorders in their own right.
I don't need other people to be present. That doesn't help, but even by myself I feel utterly stupid. The humiliation is self-imposed and a nasty spiral - I can stop feeling humiliated by not having to face it (aka stopping). And the next time I have to face it, I'm not only worse at it by virtue of being in worse shape, but also because I know I felt this way before.
The same thing can happen with coding if you aren't careful - take on too much at once and you have only failure, no sense of satisfaction. But with exercise I have no sense of "win" by accomplishing something small the way I do with something small-but-new in coding.
I run regularly, but I have been injured and unable to run for 6 months once. When I started back again I experienced that feeling where everything just feels difficult and bad, nauseous.
Trust me, that bad feeling does go away. It was fairly easy for me to get over that hurdle because exercise is such a big part of my life and I knew what I was aiming for (probably two weeks for me). But from that I do feel that I understand what people are talking about when they say they don't enjoy exercise. You're too out of shape to get over the hurdle to eventually feel good. You don't even know what you're aiming for because you've never felt it. It will take longer for you but you can get there.
> There's no "endorphin high", no sense of satisfaction.
IMO it's completely unrealistic to expect an endorphin high when you're talking about only minutes of exercise. I have had real and strong endorphin highs while running, but only after over an hour of fast running at almost race pace, when I was at my fittest. There is no way you are ever going to get there as a beginner. That's real endorphin high, I mean. You do feel overall much better all day every day being fit.
What you can achieve as a beginner however is the satisfaction that you are getting stronger every day. Eventually you will realize that you're not feeling bad, and after that you will start to feel good, for longer and longer periods of time. A long time after that you will find that you feel worse when you don't get exercise.
Just from that I think it sounds like you have an unrealistic idea of the time it should take for your body to adjust. It literally takes years and years. People who are very out of shape seem to think if they go for one walk a week that they will show noticeable effects which is totally wrong. You need to incorporate it into your life as daily activity.
Is there really nothing you enjoy that has any exercise component? I love almost any kind of exercise anyway, but I'd go crazy if I didn't at least make it outside for a walk every day.
Basically I believe you need to try to split it into little chunks that you can handle. Instead of taking the lift, take the stairs. If you can't go all the way on the stairs then just go halfway. Even doing that every day you will notice in a month that you are doing it easier than when you started. Try to get that incidental exercise here and there and eventually you can do something more substantial like walking significant distances.
For me, getting a GPS heartrate watch was a revelation. I could see every second that I cut off my average pace at the same average heartrate. I found that very motivating, and there's no way I'd be able to measure such small changes in any other way. You're basically running for weeks to see a few seconds difference. Also, I can run virtual races against myself from a year ago.
Perhaps you can find something as motivating for you. You can even listen to coding podcasts while you walk.
That's all assuming you want to change. If you don't, then just keep doing what you're doing and you'll get what you've always got...
Using your coding analogy, you wouldn't start expecting to be able to write your own OS from scratch, you'd start and practice with small things first.
One fact that I learned and still think about sometimes is that every cell in your body is replaced every 7 years. So if you start doing exercise now, 7 years from now every cell in your body will have been doing exercise from when it was first created. That's how I think about the timeframes involved when you are planning to do exercise.
Anyway, just get out there and do something, it's better than nothing, and maybe you can do one and a half somethings the next week, and so on.
Also, I echo the sentiment of the other poster. A home gym is the way to go. It's such a big investment of time to get out to a "real" gym and back.
I can go to my home gym, do "something", and have a shower in the time it takes to just get my clothes ready to go to the "real" gym... And I only wear pants when I feel like it.
As a beginner all you'd need to start is a yoga mat or a towel to do some bodyweight exercises. Much better than nothing...
I've never understood this idea of feeling humiliated at the gym
Did you try individual sports or just team sports?
Because for me finding individual sports that I love, mountain biking and surfing, makes it hard not to exercise.
If anything I have a tendency to overdo it.
I am very introverted, so finding ways to exercise that I enjoy meant individual sports.
There is still camaraderie between riders/surfers, but we don't tend to see each other as competing, just enjoying an activity side by side.
The brain needs a lot of oxygen. This is obtained from blood. Which needs to circulate. Which comes from exercise.
This is such a no-brainer, how do they even make an article about it?
Sure there are other factors influencing their decision, but "just lift weights!" is too general of a prescription to help.
For example, a gauze pad will stop your bleeding by a considerable amount....
But, going to the gym and lifting weights, and eat like a normal person...that is fine.
Exercise is important, but it's probably not so useful as a treatment for mental ill health.
The disadvantage if pushing exercise, without providing an accessible course of exercise, is that people find it hard to do and that increases their feelings of guilt and wortlessness.
Alice: Smoking tends to cause cancer.
Bob: My aunt Wanda smoked for years and lived to be 89.
Alice: Exercise is good for you.
Bob: My cousin started jogging and found out he had cancer the next month.
Alice: The global climate is warming.
Bob: The weather in my hometown was unusually cold yesterday.
Alice: Childhood vaccinations prevent many deaths. On the whole, they provide a net benefit.
Bob: A child in a nearby town had a severe allergic reaction to a chicken pox vaccine; children would be better off just getting the disease.
This kind of innumeracy is distressingly common.
I would say it certainly doesn't help that science reporting essentially never gives the numbers that matter, nor explains what they mean.
> Covering 33 randomized clinical trials with 1,877 participants
That's an average of under 57 participants per clinical trial, which seems a bit sparse to me. Still, that's not my point so much as that those are the only numbers about the study in the article. Where is the mention of statistical significance or uncertainty?
It's also difficult to teach, since I don't think we're naturally geared for intuiting about numbers bigger than we might encounter in nature. Also, anecdotes about people we know personally are more likely to resonate with us than mere statistics about faceless strangers (not that it explains why a few hundred Anthrax vaccine deaths of strangers would have been more objectionable than the routine tens of thosands of annual road deaths of strangers).