Resistance Training and Happiness
Resistance training can actually make you happier!
Exercise leads to happiness… OK, well, maybe not always immediately as you sweat away, out of breath, in your local gym’s aerobics class. But, immediately after intense exercise, or during moderate-intensity exercise, you will find your mood boosted.
You will also find it boosted overall, as your hormonal output is optimised for energy and clarity. Your cardiovascular system is similarly optimised, and your sense of self and confidence are improved. This is without even starting on the many and varied physical benefits to be gained.
My point is it’s a generally positive thing to live an active lifestyle.
It makes you happier.
However, there are different kinds of happiness. Or, at least, there are different kinds of exercise that can help to shape that happiness.
Resistance training is one of the more profound styles of exercise. If you’re struggling with your mental health in any way – which, let’s face it, many of us in recovery from addiction can be, resistance training could be a worthy addition to your overall health regime.
When we’re talking about ‘resistance training’, we’re talking about anything that places enough pressure on your muscles to force adaptation. In reality, this is performed over repeated, brief bursts of energy.
Resistance training includes weight training as an obvious example – with all the disciplines present under that banner included, such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman, CrossFit, and so on.
This form of exercise also includes any discipline in which you’re seeking resistance from your own body. Think yoga, Pilates, Calisthenics, and so on. Other forms of resistance training include forms of cardio that really tax the muscles into hypertrophy – swimming is the obvious example. Other disciplines such as rock climbing, bouldering, and intense cycling play their part, too.
Essentially, if there is a decent level of resistance going against your muscles, it’s ‘resistance training’.
Exercise your happiness with resistance training
Resistance training shapes most of my active life. I regularly lift weights and take part in powerlifting and additional strength athletics. I also practice yoga several days a week. Personally, I credit this resistance training, alongside a fair amount of steady-state cardio in the form of dog walking, with overcoming certain mental health concerns.
A lot of the time, we are told to exercise in any manner in order to boost endorphins. Hormones are largely responsible for feelings of peace and happiness. This is true. A generally active lifestyle will lead to an improved mood most of the time. However, this form of training stands head and shoulders above other forms of exercise, for me.
From a purely chemical point of view, it’s as good as, or even better than, a steady-state exercise like jogging. The endorphins will be present and correct. However, so too will adrenaline and testosterone, both of which will go a long way to improving your mood.
Building yourself up through resistance training
Resistance training works wonders on your self-confidence. You watch the barbell get heavier week by week. You’ll find yourself able to perform more push ups, more pull ups, more squats. You will also find yourself able to hold poses you never thought possible.
Your musculature develops, too, which gives you a certain confidence all of its own. There’s nothing like filling out a t-shirt the good way to give you a bit of a boost.
(Can’t get no) satisfaction
There is also something inherently satisfying about resistance training.
We all need an outlet for our stress and depression. Lifting heavy weights or pushing yourself through a rigorous yoga session scratches a very particular itch. It allows you to vent and pour your emotions into one very immediate and present physical challenge.
As a side note, working a heavy punch bag can also be very useful here, and, can be considered resistance work. I hold a couple of blackbelts and spending some time on the bag never fails to leave me happier and more relaxed.)
Any decent resistance training schedule is precise.
Many outsiders to the world of weight lifting think it’s about hefty bros throwing weights around without any regard for discipline, focus or longevity. The reverse is true – lifters live their lives by timetables, by goals and targets, and by counting up their progress by whichever metrics may be most relevant.
This allows you to build long-term focus. It allows you to work towards something healthy. There are few things better for coming out of a broader funk than setting yourself a task and seeing it through.
In-session focus is also important. Your short-term focus, your ability to deconstruct a problem into manageable chunks, your ability to commit yourself to one very present task will be built up. This is crucial.
A social club to optimise your recovery
You don’t have to hit the weights room on your own to take part in resistance training. Circuit training classes, HIIT classes, CrossFit boxes, weightlifting sessions, and many, many more styles of group activity can introduce you to lifting and carry you through on your journey.
Then, of course, there are Pilates classes, yoga classes, Calisthenics classes and so on.
In short, you will always be able to surround yourself with people, if that is what you want. A common goal, a common mindset, a shared experience, and the simple act of reaching out to the world. It all comes together to make you happier whilst easing anxiety and depression.
This isn’t unique to resistance training, of course. However, it’s there for the taking, and I would thoroughly encourage anybody to get involved.
Recoverlutions Wellness Hub provides on demand classes of yoga, fitness, breath work, meditation and more. Join our qualified professionals and access from the comfort of your own home.
Author - James
Exercise and anxiety: how to treat anxiety with physical activity
The anxiolytic effects of resistance exercise -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4090891/