A positive association between physical activity and mental health is well established, particularly for lower symptoms of depression and anxiety among active adults. However, it is unclear whether the association is influenced by personality, which might moderate or otherwise explain the association. In addition, past studies have not confirmed the association using an objective measure of physical activity.
Our objective was to examine whether Extraversion and Neuroticism influence the association between mental health and physical activity measured by convergent self-reports and an accelerometer.
Structural equation modeling was used to test competing models of the relationships between personality, physical activity, and mental health in a sample of female undergraduates.
In bivariate analysis, mental health was negatively related to Neuroticism and positively related to Extraversion, self-reported physical activity (which was related only to Extraversion, positively), and objective physical activity (which was related only to Neuroticism, negatively). In structural equation modeling, a 3-way interaction indicated that objective physical activity and mental health were unrelated in extraverts, but related positively in neurotic-introverts and negatively in stable-introverts.
Higher levels of physical activity were associated with better mental health only in neurotic-introverts, who are at higher risk for mental health problems.
Wilson (email@example.com) is with the Dept of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. Das is with the Dept of Kinesiology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. Evans and Dishman are with the Dept of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA.