Muscular Strength and Mental Well-Being

Poor muscular fitness may be linked to depression and anxiety.

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Oct 15, 2019

In a study of midlife women in Singapore, weak upper- and lower-body strength was associated with depression and anxiety. Researchers analyzed data from 1,159 healthy women ages 45–69 for physical activity, physical performance, lifestyle choices, reproductive health, sociodemographic characteristics, and depression and anxiety symptoms. Weak handgrip strength and poor lower-body strength were associated with elevated symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. Fifteen percent of participants reported depression and/or anxiety.

“Strength training has been shown to lead to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms,” said JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, executive director of the North American Meno┬¡pause Society. “Both strength training and aerobic exercise appear to improve depression, possibly as a result of increased blood flow to the brain or improved coping with stress from the release of endorphins such as norepinephrine and dopamine.”

Future research needs to determine whether strengthening exercises that improve physical performance can reduce depression and anxiety in midlife women.

The current study appeared in Menopause (2019; doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000001355).

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Shirley Archer, JD, MA

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