Grandparental Knowledge

Excuse me while I channel my inner flailing stand-up comic. Do we have any grandparents in the audience?

[mild applause]

Any grandparents who like to give advice?

[applause starts to die down]

Any grandparents who know how to use computers?

[two people clapping in the back]

Oh, right. Unless your more tech-savvy friends printed out and mailed you a copy of this website, it's likely you can navigate the Internet. So let's get to the punchline.

In the tradition of Dear Abby, Elder Wisdom Circle aims to connect wisdom-toting seniors with advice-seeking youth. Their mission is "to promote and share elder know-how and accumulated wisdom. We also have a goal of elevating the perceived value and worth of our senior community."

As a lucky grandson of very knowledgeable grandparents, I think this is fantastic. The Elder Wisdom Circle was featured on NPR last year, and you can read some of their advice letters here. And if any of our more senior readers want to impart specific wisdom on our younger ones, comment away.

[The great photo above is courtesy of Mark Bottrell, creator of the "Pedro Lacks Political Experience" t-shirt. This is his grandma.]

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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