Resistance training shows promise for reducing depressive symptoms in underserved black men
There is previous evidence that exercise can help depression. A study published in BMC Psychiatry investigated whether resistance training can benefit black men, a group less likely to seek treatment, with depressive symptoms.
Depression is a very common and serious problem all over the world. Black men are a particularly vulnerable group because depression is underreported and undertreated. There are significant stigmas and barriers to care for Black men who want to seek help for their mental illness.
Resistance training, such as weight lifting, has been linked to improving symptoms of depression in previous research. It has not been studied with respect to black men, but could be a very useful intervention for this group, as resistance training is a widely accepted form of exercise for black men. This study aims to fill this gap in research and see the effects of resistance training on depressive symptoms in black men.
Study author Joseph T. Ciccolo and his colleagues recruited community participants who identified as black or African-American cisgender men aged 21 or older. They had a total of 50 participants and randomized 25 to each group. 44% of the participants were HIV positive and the average age was 41.34 years. Both groups were offered 2 one-hour sessions per week for 12 weeks for a total of 24 sessions offered.
The resistance training group had physical resistance training and behavioral activation, while the attention control group had health, wellness, and education, where they watched videos and chatted.
The results showed that resistance training showed a significantly greater reduction in depression in black men than the educational control condition. These results were observed both immediately after their training program and after a follow-up period of 6 months. The effect sizes of these results were similar to a recent meta-analysis on antidepressants versus placebo, which is particularly significant for black men because exercise does not have the same hurdles as psychiatric treatment, in particular for this group.
This study has taken very important steps in understanding how exercise can be an intervention for black men with depressive symptoms. Despite this, it has some limitations. First, the sample only included men with mild to moderate depressive symptoms and it cannot be assumed that the effects would be found in severe depression. Additionally, the intervention was provided by a psychology professional for this study, and it should be tested whether the effects would be sustained if the intervention was provided by a physical trainer.
“The results are encouraging and suggest that more work is warranted,” the researchers concluded. “Future research will be essential to designing [resistance training] programs that could potentially increase access and acceptability of depression care for black men. Future work could also explore RT as an adjunct to standard psychiatric care.
The study, “Resistance Training for Black Men with Depressive Symptoms: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial to Assess Acceptability, Feasibility, and Preliminary Effectiveness,” was authored by Joseph T. Ciccolo, Mark E. Louie , Nicholas J. SantaBarbara, Christopher T Webster, James W. Whitworth, Sanaz Nosrat, Michelle Chrastek, Shira I. Dunsiger, Michael P. Carey, and Andrew M. Busch.