Q: Help me settle a debate. My best friend says that cardio is the best form of exercise to lift one’s spirits this winter. I think I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and so we’ve been discussing it. I disagree; I find cardio repetitive and mundane and I would rather just lift weights. But I’m not sure it’s going to help as much and he seems very confident in his opinion. What do you all think?

A: Interesting Question! Thanks for asking. First, it’s important to note that both cardio and weight training can have positive effects on mental health. The relative benefits of each will depend on the individual and their specific symptoms.

Cardio, or aerobic, exercise is any activity that gets your heart rate up and increases blood flow throughout your body. This can include activities like running, swimming, cycling, or dancing. Cardio has been shown to release endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that can improve mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. It can also improve sleep, which is important for overall mental health.

Weight training, or resistance training, involves using weights or other resistance to build strength and muscle. This type of exercise has also been shown to have mental health benefits. It can improve self-esteem and body image, and can also help with symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, weight training has been shown to improve cognitive function and can even help with symptoms of ADHD.

When it comes to the relative benefits of cardio versus weight training for mental health, it’s important to consider the individual and their specific needs. For some people, the endorphin release from cardio may be more beneficial for their mental health. For others, the increased strength and self-esteem from weight training may be more helpful.

In general, it’s a good idea to incorporate both cardio and weight training into your exercise routine. This can help provide a well-rounded approach to improving mental health. It’s also important to consult with a doctor or mental health professional before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you have a history of mental health issues. They can help you create a plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.

Sometimes exercise alone is not enough to manage mental health symptoms such as anxiety or depression and additional support through psychotherapy or medication can be very beneficial. If you’re looking for some additional support give us a call at (240) 252-3349. We are here to help.