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Health-Related Fitness, Body Mass Index, and Risk of Depression among Adolescents


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 6 - p 1083–1088
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182831db1

Purpose The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that depression is a serious issue for teenagers, with 10% to 15% reporting some symptoms and 15% having considered attempting suicide in 2009.

Purpose The objective of this study is to determine the relations between cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index (BMI) and depressive symptoms among young adolescents.

Methods The sample included 531 females and 455 males in grades 6 to 8. The FITNESSGRAM® physical fitness test battery was administered to the participants as part of required school activities. Two results from the test battery, cardiorespiratory fitness and BMI, were used to classify the students into meeting or not meeting the healthy fitness zones established for each test. The Center for Epidemiological Studies—Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC) was administered in the schools to assess behavioral and cognitive aspects of depression. Participants were classified as elevated depression (CES-DC ≥16, n = 295) or normal (<16, n = 691).

Results Logistic regression was used to assess the relations of Health Fitness Zone status for cardiorespiratory fitness and BMI with depression while controlling for age, ethnicity, sex, economic status (school lunch support), and other fitness factors (cardiorespiratory fitness or BMI). Children classified as not in the Health Fitness Zone for cardiorespiratory fitness had significantly higher odds of elevated depression (odds ratio = 1.71 (95% CI = 1.03–2.84)). BMI was not significantly related to depression.

Conclusion These findings indicate that a healthy level of cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with a lower level of depression as measured by the CES-DC. Because of the cross-sectional nature of this study, no cause and effect relations can be assumed.

1Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton, TX; 2Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion, and Recreation, University of North Texas, Denton, TX; and 3Department of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI

Address for correspondence: Scott B. Martin, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion, and Recreation, University of North Texas, PO Box 310769, Denton, TX 76203-0769; E-mail:

Submitted for publication June 2012.

Accepted for publication December 2012.

©2013The American College of Sports Medicine