Effects of physical activity on depression in adult females

  • Michelle Fortier School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa
  • Taylor McFadden School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa
  • Isabelle Soucy École de Psychologie, Université Laval
  • Martin Provencher École de Psychologie, Université Laval


A number of reviews/meta-analyses have shown the positive effects of physical activity on depression (Schuch et al., 2016). Females report twice the rates of depression than males (Pearson, Janz, & Ali, 2013). The purpose of this presentation is to report the results of 2 experimental studies examining the effects of PA on depression in female adults. The first was an RCT comparing a physical activity intervention, a behavioural activation intervention and a control condition. The second was a multiple single subject study using a physical activity counsellor to help depressed female undergraduate students increase their physical activity. For study 1, a mixed ANOVA was conducted to assess the impact of the 3 conditions on depressive symptoms. The physical activity intervention showed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, F(2, 54.74) = 3.49, p <.05 between pre- and post-intervention t (59.90) = 4.56, p < .001, d = -6.09. The physical activity intervention resulted in significantly greater reductions in depressive symptoms compared to the control condition t (58.64) = 2.41, p < .05. For study 2, the relationship between subjective physical activity and depressive symptoms was investigated using Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients for each of the 5 participants independently. There were medium to strong, negative correlations for all participants, r = -.36, -.60, -.93, -.50, -.66. The results of these 2 studies suggest that physical activity is an effective way to improve depressive symptoms among adult females.