The Indirect Effect of Physical Activity on Depressive Symptoms Through Physical Self-Concept Among Emerging Adults




Ryan, Jessica

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Introduction. A negative correlation between physical activity (PA) and depressive symptoms exists within the literature and limited evidence suggests that physical self-concept is a significant mediator of this association. Further, a handful of studies have found social network site use (SNSU), self-objectification, and reasons for exercise engagement to independently correlate with PA, physical self-concept, and depressive symptoms, but little is known about their moderating potential within this mediation model. To address this gap and enhance understandings of PA’s antidepressant nature, this study assesses the associations between PA, physical self-concept, and depressive the influence of psychosocial moderators on the strength of the indirect effect of PA on depressive symptoms through physical self-concept. Methodology. Canadians between the ages of 18-25 (N = 496, Mage = 20.36) completed a questionnaire assessing demographic characteristics, PA, physical self-concept, SNSU, self-objectification, exercise motivations, and depressive symptoms using validated measures. Analyses. Preliminary analyses tested the mediation model using PROCESS macro in RStudio whereby physical self-concept was entered as the mediator of the association between PA and depressive symptoms. Conclusions. A weak indirect effect (ß = -0.177) of PA on depressive symptoms through physical self-concept was found, whereby more PA was associated with higher physical self-concept which was associated with decreased depressive symptoms. Future Directions and Impact. Next steps include assessing the proposed moderated-mediation models. An improved understanding of the context of PA’s antidepressant effect will help inform the development and delivery of PA interventions targeting depressive symptoms.



Physical activity, depressive symptoms, self-concept, mental health, emerging adults