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Fitness Helps Middle-School Girls Avoid Depression, Study

Fitness Helps Middle-School Girls Avoid Depression, Study

Numerous studies have illustrated how physical fitness can greatly improve overall health. A routine exercise plan works to boost energy and control weight fluctuations, but it can also help reduce the risk of depression, according to a recent findings presented at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.

The study was led by Camilo J. Ruggero, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of North Texas.

Dr. Ruggero and team observed a group of 437 sixth-grade students — 197 male and 240 female. The study population was drawn from six middle schools in an urban area of northern Texas.

At the beginning of the sixth-grade school year, researchers gathered information on each student. This information included three factors: level of depression, body composition and CRF. The researchers visited the same group at the beginning of seventh grade to collect the information again.

To determine levels of depression, each student completed a survey. The survey asked questions about depressive symptoms and body image. The study authors used the data to measure depression with the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children.

To determine body composition, the researchers weighed and measured each student. They used the weight and height data to calculate body mass index.

Finally, to determine CRF, the students participated in fitness tests during gym class. Tests included running laps and the shuttle-run.

The research team ran tests to see if any of the three factors affected another during the sixth- or seventh-grade years. They also used this information to see if any factors in sixth grade predicted an outcome in seventh grade.

Among the girls, 28.3 percent of the girls had possible depression in sixth grade, and 28.5 percent had it in seventh grade. Of the boys, 22.3 percent in sixth grade and 18.8 percent in seventh grade had possible depression.

For boys, depression in sixth grade was a strong predictor of poor fitness in seventh grade, the study authors noted.

For girls, higher levels of CRF were linked to lean body composition and lower levels of depression. Overall, increased fitness in sixth grade was a strong predictor of lower depression in seventh grade.

“Depression that begins at this time can lead to chronic or recurring depression in later years,” Dr. Ruggero said in a press release. “Fitness programs are one way to help prevent depression in middle-schoolers, but schools should also use other interventions, such as one-on-one or group therapy, that more directly address symptom treatment among depressed adolescents.”


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