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Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Weightlifter’s High’?

There’s nothing an avid runner loves to do more — aside from sniffing their own farts, and casually mentioning the new personal record they set in their most recent 10K — than bragging about achieving that elusive runner’s high. To hear them tell it, runners enter a blissed-out trance every time they beat the path with their Asics. And alas, science backs them up: Running does in fact release a flood of endorphins in the brain, causing feelings of euphoria.

For those of us for whom running is nothing but pure, unceasing misery (i.e., me), tales of the runner’s high are deeply annoying. Not only do these runners get off on exercising more than you, they get a natural opiate high while doing so.

That’s double the smugness! Not fair, imo.

Well, I got some news for all the scrawny, arrogant Runner Chads out there — us husky boys get a psychological benefit from when we tone our glutes with our many squat thrusts. Only ours is slightly different. Rather than a burst of pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters and a corresponding sense of happy-go-lucky runner’s high, weightlifting elicits feelings of calm — making it a great way to treat a host of psychological disorders, especially anxiety.

An October 2017 meta-study — a study of 16 other studies, essentially — by researchers at Ohio State University finds that weightlifting and other resistance-training regimens improved mental and emotional health, specifically when it came to treating anxiety symptoms. The study also finds weightlifting can boost brain power, as does this January 2017 Harvard study. Not to mention, weightlifting has been shown to help people sleep more soundly and better manage stressful situations as well.

The benefits of weightlifting aren’t limited by age or gender, either. A small study by Harvard Medical School researchers finds weightlifting helps decrease depression among the elderly, and indeed, many people, particularly women, are now turning to weightlifting to treat their depression.

Poncho Martinez, a 27-year-old political activist and powerlifter in New York, says weightlifting is the only effective treatment he’s found for his clinical depression. Prior to weightlifting, Martinez would lock himself in a dark room for hours at a time and mutter, “Terror, terror, terror” into the void. Now he’s an advocate for weightlifting as both a psychological improvement and a tool with which to politically organize.

So running may leave you gleeful and Rockette-kicking your way through life. Which is great. But for those of us who struggle with stress and feelings of self-doubt, the short, intense bursts of physical aggression that are endemic to weightlifting provide a much-needed chill.