“You’ll notice improvements in mood and mental clarity the same day you exercise,” asserts Lindsey Hopkins, PhD, a clinical psychologist who researches exercise and mental health. Strength training — even if you don’t use barbells — is particularly effective, says Hopkins. “The physical and emotional discomfort of training helps you learn to tolerate discomfort in general,” she explains. “Your mind and body learn that you can persist and cope healthfully in the face of discomfort, and that is a huge part of overcoming depression.”
Indeed, in a Harvard study of depressed adults, 80 percent experienced a significant reduction in depressive symptoms after strength training just twice a week for 10 weeks. To get the benefits, follow Marquita Wilson’s lead and start by trying these exercises twice a week.
Utilizing the deltoids, this move slims the shoulders.
To Do: Place your palms move slims the shoulders on the wall shoulder-width apart. Walk a few steps back until your weight is on your toes, then straighten your arms. Bend your elbows to slowly bring your chest toward the wall, then press back out. Do 10 reps.
This calls on the hamstrings to lift the backside.
To Do: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift one foot up as if stepping up. Return your foot to the floor. That’s one rep; do 10 with each leg. If you are unbalanced, try stepping on a staircase, steadying yourself with the railing.
Lunges strengthen the quads and hamstrings to trim the thighs.
To Do: Take a big step forward with your left foot so your right heel comes off the ground. Bend both knees until your left thigh is parallel to the ground. Press back up. That’s one rep. Do 10 with each leg.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.