Resistance training reduces the cardiovascular response to psychosocial stress, study finds

New research provides evidence that weight training improves how the heart responds to psychological stress. The findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

“A lot of people do exercise in their free time for many reasons such as enjoyment, shape, figure, and health. And yes, there is a lot of research supporting that regular exercise strengthens one’s health because it helps cope with stress,” said study author Peter Gröpel of the University of Vienna.

“However, the vast majority of this research has been done with endurance training. We were just interested whether people who don’t like so much cardio (jogging, biking, etc.) but do resistance training instead (e.g., weight lifting) may also benefit from it. That means, whether endurance and resistance trainings are comparable in their effect on health-promoting factors (here: stress responsiveness).”

The study used experimentally verified stress-inducing scenarios (the Trier Social Stress Test) to compare differences between 12 endurance-trained men, 10 resistance-trained men, and 12 untrained men.

The researchers found that the task increased cortisol and heart rate responses for all three groups. It also led to worsened mood. However, the untrained men showed a higher cardiovascular stress responsiveness compared to the endurance-trained men and resistance-trained men.

“Regular and long-term endurance and resistance trainings are related to the same cardiovascular benefits,” Gröpel explained to PsyPost. “We found that both endurance- and resistance-trained men did not increase their heart rate as much as untrained men did when being under high stress.”

“Hence, regular training pays off regardless of whether the training is more endurance-oriented or more resistance-oriented, because it strengthens one’s heart and helps cope with stress.”

The study — like all research — has some limitations.

“We only sampled healthy young men. The generalizability of our results is thus limited to this population,” Gröpel said.

“Replications with other samples would provide more insight into the influence of gender, age, and clinical factors on exercise-related stress adaptations. In addition, we should be cautious with causal conclusions, as we only used a cross-sectional study design.”

The study, “Endurance- and Resistance-Trained Men Exhibit Lower Cardiovascular Responses to Psychosocial Stress Than Untrained Men“, was authored by Peter Gröpel, Maren Urner, Jens C. Pruessner and Markus Quirin.