Break a Sweat, Mend Your Mind: Exercise and Mood Among Adolescents
Purpose: The prevalence of depression in adolescents is rising, and regular exercise has been reported to have a decreasing effect on incidence of depressed mood in meta-analyses of adult interventions. There is a need to explore this association among adolescents. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between exercise and mood among United States adolescents responding to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) 2017. Methods: YRBS is a nationally representative sample of 9th through 12th grade students (N=14,765), and was restricted to an analytic sample (N=10,789). The outcome of interest was depressed or low mood (yes/no to feeling sad or hopeless in the past 12 months), and the exposure was physical activity (yes/no to being physically active for at least 60 minutes on five or more days in the past week). Covariates included: age, sex, race/ethnicity, physical education class attendance, sports team participation, and hours of sleep. SAS version 9.4 was used to perform survey-weighted descriptive estimates and crude and adjusted logistic regression models. Results: Overall, 47.5% of participants reported being physically active, and 31.3% reported feeling sad or hopeless in the last year. Respondents who reported physical activity were less likely to have reported feeling sad or hopeless when compared to those who were not physically active (OR=0.68, 95%CI 0.59, 0.79). When adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, physical education class attendance, sports team participation, and hours of sleep, the association was no longer statistically significant (aOR=0.93 95%CI 0.80, 1.10). Conclusions: While an association between exercise and depressed mood was not observed in this cross-sectional study, further research is needed into the risk and protective factors for depression in adolescents due to the rising prevalence of the disorder.