Can Physical Activity Improve Depression, Coping & Motivation to Exercise in Children and Youth Experiencing Challenges to Mental Wellness?


This study examined the influence of a physical activity (PA) program (Move Your Mood) on children and adolescents receiving services in community mental health clinics. Participants (N = 35) were referred to the (PA) program by their mental health therapist. Coaches engaged participants in individual one-on-one and group activity sessions for eight weeks. Participant heart rates were monitored during physical activity sessions and designed to achieve moderate to high intensity. Participants reported significant improvements in mood immediately following physical activity. Measures of motivation to exercise, coping, and depression were taken before program participation, at 4-weeks, and at completion of the 8 week program. Results indicate that the PA program significantly improved child and adolescent ability to cope as well as their intrinsic motive to exercise. In addition, the PA program significantly reduced self-reported depressive symptoms. Qualitative analysis indicates that social supports and enhanced self-efficacy resulting from physical activity engagement and sessions are key factors associated with program outcomes. The current study provides evidence to support three key psychosocial theories: social interaction, distraction hypothesis, and mastery hypothesis.

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Oddie, S. , Fredeen, D. , Williamson, B. , DeClerck, D. , Doe, S. & Moslenko, K. (2014). Can Physical Activity Improve Depression, Coping & Motivation to Exercise in Children and Youth Experiencing Challenges to Mental Wellness?. Psychology, 5, 2147-2158. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.519217.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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