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Physical Activity Predicts Depression in Middle Childhood

Last Updated: January 10, 2017.

Higher moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at age 6 and 8 years predicts fewer symptoms of major depression two years later, according to a study published online Jan. 9 in Pediatrics.

TUESDAY, Jan. 10, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Higher moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) at age 6 and 8 years predicts fewer symptoms of major depression two years later, according to a study published online Jan. 9 in Pediatrics.

Tonje Zahl, from NTNU Social Research in Trondheim, Norway, and colleagues examined the prospective correlation between physical activity and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition-defined major depression in middle childhood. A sample of 795 6-year-old children was followed up at age 8 and 10 years (699 and 702 children, respectively). Physical activity was recorded by accelerometry, and semistructured clinical interviews of parents and children were used to measure symptoms of major depression.

The researchers found that higher MVPA at age 6 and 8 years predicted fewer major depressive disorder symptoms two years later. Sedentary behavior did not predict depression; depression did not predict MVPA or sedentary activity. From age 6 to 8 years there was a decrease in the number of symptoms of major depression; there was evidence of modest continuity.

"MVPA predicts fewer symptoms of major depression in middle childhood, and increasing MVPA may serve as a complementary method to prevent and treat childhood depression," the authors write.

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