Investigating the effects of physical activity counselling (pac) on physical activity levels and depressive symptoms in female undergraduate students suffering from depression

  • Taylor McFadden University of Ottawa
  • Michelle Fortier University of Ottawa
  • Eva Guérin Institut de Recherche de l'Hôpital Montfort


Depression is a serious health concern among university students (Ibrahim et al., 2013). Although pharmacotherapy remains the primary treatment for depression, it may not be the most sufficient treatment (Stanton et al., 2014). Recent reviews and meta-analyses support that physical activity has a considerable influence on reducing depressive symptoms (Schuch et al., 2016; Wegner et al., 2014); however there are obvious challenges in getting people moving. One potential strategy, which has received support in helping people become more active, is Physical Activity Counselling (Fortier et al., 2011). Physical Activity Counselling (PAC) focuses on motivating individuals to be more physically active for personally derived reasons. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a two-month PAC intervention on physical activity levels and depressive symptoms in female undergraduate students suffering from depression. The hypotheses were: (1) PAC will increase physical activity levels (2) Increased physical activity levels will reduce depressive symptoms. Physical activity and depressive symptoms were assessed via self-reported questionnaires (Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire and Patient Health Questionnaire) administered every second day through FluidSurveys, an online platform. Results from visual analysis supported our hypotheses. Statistical analysis, using paired-samples t-tests, revealed an increase in self-reported physical activity from baseline (M=11.10, SD= 8.46) to endpoint (M=21.60, SD= 13.46) and a decrease in depressive symptoms from baseline (M=14.60, SD=6.69) to endpoint (M= 11.00, SD= 3.80). The eta squared statistics (0.60 and 0.44) indicated large effects. These results support the role of PAC as an approach to increase physical activity levels for the improvement of depressive symptoms.