Duke EHD Bass Connections

Duke Bass Connections


Exercise is associated with a variety of mental health benefits including reduced stress reactivity; depressive, anxious and ADHD symptoms; and improvements in body image, self-esteem and academic performance. However, exercise is not beneficial to everyone at all times: some individuals exercise to a compulsive degree. Thus, research is needed to determine moderators (e.g., biological, psychosocial and exercise characteristics) of the relationship of exercise on positive mental health. Researchers need to better understand who will most benefit from exercise and for whom is it contraindicated. Additionally, more research is needed to examine the appropriate exercise prescription or dose needed for risk reduction or a therapeutic effect. Knowledge of moderators of exercise benefit would help educators tailor exercise programs to those whom would most benefit and design specialized programs for vulnerable individuals.

Project Description

This project team will examine the relationship between exercise and various mental health issues that impact children, adolescents and young adults such as body image, self-esteem, mood and eating disorder risk. The team will also study potential moderators and types of exercise programs that may enhance the impact of exercise on positive mental health, and will identify practical ways to disseminate findings.

Team members will examine the impact of a 8-week strength training program on indices of mental health and body image in college students. Moderators of intervention effect, such as eating disorder symptomatology and motivation for exercise, will be examined. We will incorporate an extensive repository of physical activity opportunities in the Triangle area into a searchable database for health practitioners to give more precise physical activity recommendations: an “activity finder” tool.