Skip to content

    Health & Parenting

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Fitness May Help Ward Off Depression in Girls

    Being in good physical condition likely to help boys avoid the blues too, expert says

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Tara Haelle

    HealthDay Reporter

    THURSDAY, Aug. 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The more fit middle-school girls are, the less likely they may be to develop symptoms of depression, according to a recent study.

    Although the effect of fitness on depression was small, improvements in fitness may be part of an overall strategy for reducing the risk of depression in middle-schoolers, according to Camilo Ruggero, lead researcher and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Texas. Other strategies might include school-based or family therapy, which can both treat and help prevent depression in at-risk kids.

    "Fitness is not a cure-all, but it's a small piece of a larger problem," said Ruggero. He noted that depression is also linked to a higher body mass index (BMI), a measurement used to assess if a person has a healthy weight for their height. In addition, middle school is a time when fitness levels drop off, weight increases and depression increases. "That's why we're so focused on that period," he said.

    "We don't know exactly why there is a link [between fitness levels and depression], but it is probably a number of things," Ruggero said. "It might be better self-esteem, healthier weight or getting more positive reinforcements that go along with being active, and/or it could be more biological. We know certain proteins and hormones associated with less depression respond to increased exercise."

    He said the relationship might be reciprocal, too: the researchers also found that depression among sixth-grade boys predicted poorer fitness in seventh grade.

    There was also a trend between fitness levels and depression in boys but it was not statistically significant. Less depression occurs among boys in general, so the effect may have been harder to detect, according to Ruggero. He suspects a study using a larger number of boys might show a stronger link, though it would likely still be modest.

    The findings were presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. Findings presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
     
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
     
    mother and daughter talking
    Tool
    child brushing his teeth
    Slideshow
     
    Sipping hot tea
    Slideshow
    Young woman holding lip at dentists office
    Video
     
    Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
    Article
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
     
    tissue box
    Quiz
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow