suicide headlines

Focus on Fitness May Help Manage Mental Health: Study

Given the recent suicide headlines, we have focused once again recently on mental health and the positive role a well-run workplace wellness program can play in helping employees and businesses.

After all, a new Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “suicide rates in the United States have risen nearly 30% since 1999, and mental health conditions are one of several factors contributing to suicide. Examining state-level trends in suicide and the multiple circumstances contributing to it can inform comprehensive state suicide prevention planning.”

The report adds that “Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are increasing. In addition, rates of emergency department visits for nonfatal self-harm, a main risk factor for suicide, increased 42% from 2001 to 2016. Together, suicides and self-harm injuries cost the nation approximately $70 billion per year in direct medical and work loss costs.”

One way that well-run workplace wellness programs may be able to assist employees in managing their mental health: Helping them manage their physical health.

A new JAMA study is titled “Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms.” Or, as the New York Times reports: “Weight Training May Help to Ease or Prevent Depression.”

The study authors state: “The physical benefits of resistance exercise training (RET) are well documented, but less is known regarding the association of RET with mental health outcomes. To date, no quantitative synthesis of the antidepressant effects of RET has been conducted.”

Therefore, “to estimate the association of efficacy of RET with depressive symptoms and determine the extent to which logical, theoretical, and/or prior empirical variables are associated with depressive symptoms and whether the association of efficacy of RET with depressive symptoms accounts for variability in the overall effect size.”

The conclusion is telling: “Resistance exercise training significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults regardless of health status, total prescribed volume of RET, or significant improvements in strength.”

The NYT adds insights that seem extremely useful to workplace wellness programs that seek to engage members in physical activity — and don’t want to scare them off: “Perhaps most interesting, the amount of weight training did not seem to matter. The benefits essentially were the same, whether people went to the gym twice a week or five times a week and whether they were completing lots of repetitions of each exercise or only a few.”

It continues: “The mental health impacts were similar, too, for men and women and for younger lifters (often college students) and people who were middle-aged or elderly.”