How to Mitigate Stress by Lifting Weights

Life is stressful. Sometimes that stress is good. A healthy amount of stress makes you perform better at your job, work harder on your personal relationships, and grow stronger as your body changes to meet greater demands.

But too much stress without time for recovery can put you into a state of chronic stress. And when you get there, you may also experience:

  • Moodiness
  • Feeling like you're out of control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Low self-esteem or depression
  • Desire for isolation
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, aches, pains, and tense muscles, chest pain and rapid heartbeat, insomnia... 

The list goes on. Too much stress can ruin your happiness and your health. We can't avoid stress, but we can manage how much it impacts us.

One of the best ways to manage anxiety and de-stress is by lifting weights. This study shows that "resistance training at a low-to-moderate intensity produces the most reliable and robust decreases in anxiety."

The study defines "low-to-moderate" intensity as lifting weights that are less than 70% of your one rep maximum (1RM) -- that is, 70% of the heaviest weight you can safely lift if someone held a gun to your head and told you to lift the heaviest thing you could (wait, am I stressing you out more with that image?). 

This is the same weight range that most people use in an average weightlifting session. For example, if you're lifting 5 sets of 8 reps, and you feel like it's about a 7 or 8 out of 10 on a difficulty scale, you're probably lifting at about 65% of your 1RM. 

So, what should you do if you're feeling stressed out? Come on into the gym and lift weights with me, that's what! You'll feel better in no time, and you'll also benefit from increases in muscle mass, endurance, and bone density. 

photo credit: anieto2k 6/52³: Estrés / Stress via photopin (license)