Take a weight off your mind and lift for health

By Caitriona McMahon  @Caitriona_Mac

Many anatomical and physical reasons exist as to why we should lift weights as part of our physical training routine – but did you ever stop to think how training could actually help your mental health?

Today in Ireland, hopefully we are finally realising we are not purely only physical beings – and exercise does not just benefit our bodies.

Weight training, as just one example, can have a tremendous affect on our mental health and well-being going beyond the physical.

As a former gym instructor, I have witnessed people benefit in various ways from weights sessions.

Caitriona McMahon in athletic mode
Caitriona McMahon in athletic mode

Those with osteoporosis saw their bone density increase, the risk of diabetes and heart disease also dropped for many.

Muscle tone became more defined. The list is never ending for the reasons why weight training can help create the body beautiful and improve physical health.

The most obvious change for me was watching gym user’s confidence increase as their strength did.

Cracking out of their old body and turning into a confident being. That’s not something that can be accurately weighed up on scales.

The myth that if ladies lift weights it results in bulking up thankfully has started to vanish and has been replaced by a wonderfully balanced gym user base.

At 47, Hollywood star Jennifer Aniston, is still regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world.

And the Mother’s Day actress regularly incorporates weight training in to her one hour exercise regime.

Her typical fitness week sounds includes attending a spin-yoga class—which is 30 minutes of spinning and 30 minutes of yoga—three times a week.

Then, she does weight training at home another three days a week. Sometimes, she switches things up a gear doing cardio at home, too. She calls her home cardio session a “trifecta.”

“I usually do a trifecta. Fifteen minutes on the bike, 15 on the treadmill running and then 15 on the elliptical. You have to shake it up, you know, muscle confusion,” the actress told People magazine.

“Bite the bullet. Just bite the bullet and do it. Think of a wonderful pasta or Mexican meal that you want to have on the weekend and dangle that in front of you like a little carrot.”

Body beautiful: Jennifer Aniston uses weights to look and feel good
Body beautiful: Jennifer Aniston uses weights to look and feel good

Weight training brings with it a certain type of stress release. Inhaling lowering the dumbbell and blowing all your anxieties and problems away on the exhale can only be compared to sheer bliss.

On a recent session I compared it to discovering my inner chi! Mind and body seem to harmonize mid repetition.

With each slow and controlled movement a sense of self control is nurtured and developed helping raise one’s self esteem. Slow and steady wins the race as they say…

Whether your 16 or 96 weight training can be personalised to help you develop to be the strongest person you can be. But strength can not only measured by muscle size, it includes mental resilience and discipline.

Discovering what you identify to be your limits and two seconds later you may realise you have changed your perception of yourself.

Not all weights training takes place in a gym either. Boot camps, forest and park workouts, all add to the dynamic.


Getting in shape whilst absorbing nature’s positive energy can be liberating. Lifting tyres and using what’s around you means it does not have to cost a fortune either.

Though, I would never advise someone to begin weights training without first consulting a fitness instructor.

Give it a try – it t could be the lift you need in your life…

Caitriona McMahon is co-founder of Community Crisis Response Team voluntary suicide intervention team in Limerick.

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