When you think of lifting weights, the first thought that probably comes to your mind is the physical benefits such as “getting ripped” or “a six-pack”. We all know that exercise is good for you physically. But the mental health benefits of lifting weights too often get overlooked. These benefits, including anxiety and depression symptom reduction, are arguably more important than the physical benefits. Lifting weights has transformed my mental health in ways that I could have never expected, and I’m here to share my experiences.
I went through a pretty dark time during my sophomore year of college. I’ve been dealing with anxiety my whole life, but at this time it spiked through the roof. I was stressed out ALL the time, was having relationship issues, and felt absolutely terrible in my own skin. I had zero confidence and was lazy and unhealthy. I had never enjoyed going to the gym before, but one day a friend suggested I try lifting weights, and I never turned back. It was the first type of exercise I’ve found fun. (It is so important to find a form of exercise that you enjoy doing and that you are able to integrate into your schedule.) For me this became lifting, and it was the best decision I have ever made. It reduced my anxiety to the point where I am no longer on medication, and basically gave me my life back.
Here are 5 ways lifting weights can transform your mental health:
1. Creates a sense of empowerment. There is nothing more satisfying than setting a goal, putting hard work and effort into it, and accomplishing it! Lifting gives you the ability to do this over and over as you accomplish goals and see results. There is such a sense of empowerment and pride that comes along with this. It can shift your mindset completely and make you feel strong and ready to take on whatever life throws at you.
2. Time to focus on YOU. For an hour or so a day, you are solely focused on yourself. Having uninterrupted time for yourself is so important to help clear your mind without distractions. Not only are you revitalizing your body, but your mind too. This will allow you to improve concentration and be more productive throughout your day. You will feel more in-tune with your body, allowing you to establish a more kind and loving relationship with yourself. I’ve learned to be more mindful, and focus on myself in the present moment–allowing the stress of daily life to lessen dramatically.
3. Builds Strong Relationships.Strengthening your body can also give you the tools and mindset to strengthen your relationships. Lifting pushes you to dedicate yourself to a healthy lifestyle, which can transfer to other parts of your life–including personal relationships! If you are lucky enough to have a friend or partner that enjoys lifting too, it is a great way to bond. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who also respect and care about their bodies can help create closer and more supportive relationships.
4. Teaches you how to deal with problems. To overcome large obstacles you must learn to overcome small obstacles. Many of the things that cause circumstantial depression and anxiety in your life are difficult or impossible to control. Lifting forces you to face something difficult head- on, and shows you that you are, in fact, able to overcome it. You deal with the pain, the discipline, and the difficulty of weight lifting, and this translates to other aspects of your life. You approach problems differently with less fear and more rationality.
5. Builds Confidence. This one may seem obvious, but it is SO important. Although it may seem slightly superficial–looking good absolutely helps you feel good. You’re gonna start gaining some muscle, losing some fat, and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. You’re going to feel more confident in situations that you would have otherwise felt uncomfortable, and be able to navigate these situations with faith in yourself.
Overall, lifting has changed my life in significant ways that I could not have imagined. It has helped give me goals to work towards in life that are meaningful and motivate me to be better. I have seen significant reduction in my anxiety levels and my mental health in general, and I encourage you to try out lifting, or find exercise that you enjoy and can integrate into your life!
Olivia is a fitness enthusiast and marketing student currently attending Babson College. She created her blog “Liv Fit” because she knows getting fit isn’t easy, and hopes sharing both the successes and the setbacks of her fitness journey will inspire others not to give up on achieving their goals. She incorporates fitness advice that not only includes the gym, but a healthy diet and heavy focus on the importance of mental health.