Naturally occurring changes in physical activity are inversely related to depressive symptoms during early adolescence

Robert W. Motl, Amanda Birnbaum, Martha Y. Kubik, Rod K. Dishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

183 Scopus citations


Objective: We examined the relationship between naturally occurring changes in physical activity and depressive symptoms across a 2-year period among adolescent boys and girls. Methods: Participants (N = 4594) reported their frequency of physical activity outside of school and completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale in the Fall of 1998 (beginning of 7th grade; baseline data), Spring of 1999 (end of 7th grade; interim data), and Spring of 2000 (end of 8th grade; follow-up data). Results: Latent growth modeling indicated that a 1 SD unit change in the frequency of leisure-time physical activity was inversely related to a .25 SD unit change in depressive symptoms. This relationship was attenuated but remained statistically significant when simultaneously controlling for the confounding variables of sex, socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol consumption, and the value participants placed on their health, appearance, and achievement. Conclusions: Naturally occurring changes in physical activity were negatively related with changes in depressive symptoms. The results encourage randomized controlled trials to experimentally determine whether an increase in physical activity reduces depression risk among adolescent boys and girls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-342
Number of pages7
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2004



  • Adolescents
  • CES-D
  • Depression
  • Exercise

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