Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Exercise Science

First Advisor

Abbi Lane


Introduction and purpose: Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health struggles in the United States each year. There has been promising research noting the positive effects of exercise on lowering symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are highly prevalent on college campuses, especially during high stress portions of the semester. The purpose of this study was to observe the changes in mental health over the course of the semester and if exercise level mediated any of these changes in the university population. Methods: Participants scanned a QR code or followed a link to the first survey via flyers in Campus Recreation facilities. They were then taken to the informed consent document and after agreeing, participants filled out basic sociodemographic information, the PROMIS Anxiety short form, the PROMIS Depression short form, and the Godin-Shepherd Leisure Time Activity form. Those who filled out the first survey and consented to a follow up email received the second survey in late November with the same three validated surveys along with questions regarding Campus Recreation and more sociodemographic information. Results: Twenty-two participants completed the first survey and seven completed the follow up survey. At the first time point, there was a moderate correlation between the amount of exercise score with anxiety (Spearman’s Rho=-0.5117, p<0.03) and depression scores respectively (Spearman’s Rho=-0.6530, p<0.01). Correlations were not as strong at the second time point (Spearman’s Rho=-0.2571, p=0.63; Spearman’s Rho=-0.3947, p=0.44), though only 6 participants completed the follow-up survey. There was no significant difference between anxiety or depression scores and Group Exercise or Intramural program use versus facility users only (p=0.2765, p=0.2342). Conclusions: There was a significant negative correlation between higher levels of exercise and depression and anxiety scores. There was no significant difference between campus recreation program use and mental health scores, so this could mean that different types of activities might have similar associations with mental health scores. Future studies with larger sample sizes have the potential to describe more generalizable relationships between exercise and anxiety and depression scores over time.


© 2023, Jamie Alexis Whitney