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To identify the most consistent relationships among psychological variables and physical activity in youth (ages 11-21 years), 20 articles on depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteem, self-concept, hostility, anger, intellectual functioning, and psychiatric disorders were reviewed. Physical activity was consistently related to improvements in self-esteem, self-concept, depressive symptoms, and anxiety/stress. The effect sizes were +.12, -.15, and -.38 for self-esteem/self-concept, stress/anxiety, and depression, respectively. The evidence for hostility/anger and academic achievement was inconclusive. No negative effects of physical activity were reported. The literature suggests that physical activity in youth is psychologically beneficial. More research is needed to confirm previous findings. Adolescents should engage in moderate or vigorous aerobic activity approximately three times per week for a total of at least 60 minutes per week.
Karen J. Calfas is with the Department of Health Promotion at San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182-0567. Wendell C. Taylor is with the School of Public Health at the University of Texas-Houston, Health Science Center, Houston, TX 77225.