“The available empirical evidence supports resistance exercise training as an alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms.” - Journal of The American Medical Association
“People who engaged in even a small amount of exercise reported better mental health than others who did none. Another study, from the American College of Sports Medicine, indicated that six weeks of bicycle riding or weight training eased stress and irritability in women who had received an anxiety disorder diagnosis.” - Scientific American
"In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression” - Harvard Medical School
Nobody ever said drugs or talk therapy don’t work at all. But they don’t seem to stack up well against exercise, even when you consult organizations which benefit directly from steering us away from exercise toward more interventional/conventional therapies. Actually, why predetermine what does and doesn’t work? Why not try it all?
Many times people have talked to me about modest-to-severe mental illness. Some of those people utilize exercise as one way to manage it. Some of those people assume that the mental struggle prevents them from exercising, and then it becomes true.
If you or someone you know are part of the second group, I want to challenge you to think in a new way. Flip the equation. The people you see working out, who seem to be happily skipping to the gym, immersed in daily practice, don’t do that BECAUSE they’re happy first. They do that precisely because they’re unhappy first.
For industry outsiders, this may come as some sort of shock. But I have the inside scoop. I know the very people you think have it all together. They hire me. They confide in me when they’re struggling emotionally, even when they are performing incredibly in the fitness industry. Leaders, influencers, gym owners, extremely respected high level professionals - they all struggle. In most cases, what they’re up against is so unimaginable, because I may be the only person to whom they can reveal it.
They don’t workout because they are blithely strutting through life. They lift because it’s one of many emotional management tools they MUST execute to function.
Personally, I’ve experienced it too. The most money and most successful I’ve even been in business were some of my most depressed episodes. At those times, there was no space for me or for my exercise program. And I could feel it, deeply, palpably, viscerally. It’s part of the reason why I run so many and such crazy experiments. With the type of coaching I do, I have periods where I literally cannot meet the demand AND be the father I plan to be, UNLESS workouts diminish to tiny bouts of a few minutes here and there. So, I diminish them. And when I do, I don’t feel as emotionally put-together. Every single time without fail.
The human animal is meant to move, exert itself, push hard from time to time. We’ve so embraced modernity that we’ve left behind integral parts of who we have to be. And research will continue to vindicate this notion. Lifting isn’t a made-up make-believe addition to life. It is a call to our fundamental selves. Taking it away from us is like taking the howl away from a wolf, the sea away from a whale, the open sky away from a bird. Being sedentary is a form of captivity. Sure. Some will avoid the injuries of nature while in captivity. But most will lose the luster of life.