According to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement, roughly 11 percent of adolescents experience a depressive disorder by age 18. However, in a recent study led by Camilo Ruggero of North Texas, there may be a solution to combat this issue, especially for young middle school girls. Ruggero and his team, presenting at the 122nd Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C., last Thursday, suggested that getting teenage girls physically fit can combat the risks of depression. 

For the purposes of the study, Ruggero and his colleagues followed more than 400 sixth grade students from six middle schools in North Texas, with 55 percent being females. They evaluated the depression symptoms of the participants in addition to their fitness level, utilizing the shuttle run and measuring their weight, and the results were astounding. 

The group found that about 28 percent of girls in sixth grade and 29 percent of girls in seventh grade had symptoms of depression. For comparative matters, 22 percent of boys in seventh grade and 19 percent of boys in eighth grade showed symptoms. When looking at the big picture, Ruggero and co. found that fitness does not only seriously combat depression symptoms in the short-term, but also the long-term, especially one year later. 

"Assessing the students' body mass index, how well they performed on a shuttle-run test and their own feelings of personal fitness helps to give us a more complete picture of each student's fitness level," Ruggero said. 

While Ruggero was not able to identify any sort of specific association between fitness and depression, he noted a number of contributing factors, such as better self-esteem, healthier weight, positive reinforcement while working out or biological. "We know certain proteins and hormones associated with less depression respond to increased exercise," Ruggero said.