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Table 2 Characteristics and the main results of the association of physical activity/exercise on mental health among children and adolescents

From: The association between physical activity and mental health during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review

Authors Study design, sample characteristics (n, sex, age), recruitment, country Outcomes (instruments) Study qualitya Main findings
Alves, et al. (2020) [52] Longitudinal study, 64 children (63% girls, mean age 11.84 ± 1.28 years), phone or video call visit one from April 22nd to June 26th, visit two from May 22nd to July 29th, 2020, USA. Physical Activity (PAR).
Anxiety (STAIC).
Positive and Negative Affect (PANAS-C).
5 MVPA was associated with less state anxiety, sedentary time, leisure screen time and VPA was not associated with lower state anxiety. Negative affect was correlated with sedentary time and leisure screen time. Positive affect was not related to any of the physical activity measures.
Chi, et al. (2020) [53] Cross-sectional study, 1794 adolescents (43.8% girls, mean age 15.2 ± 0.4 years), online survey between May 13 and 20, 2020, shortly after reopening schools, China. COVID-fear (FCV-19S).
Nutrition (HPLP-II).
Physical Activity (IPAQ-SF).
Insomnia (YSIS).
Depressive symptoms (PHQ-9).
Anxiety (GAD-7).
8 With lowly active physically as the referent, moderately physically was significantly associated with a lower level of depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms while highly active physically was associated with a lower level of insomnia symptoms, depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms.
Morres, et al. 2021 [54] Cross-sectional, 950 adolescents (mean age 14.41 ± 1.63 years, 518 boys), web-based survey, Greece. Physical activity (IPAQ-SF)
Mood (4DMS)
Psychological well-being (WHO-5)
5 Increased physical activity predicted better well-being. Days of PA per week was stronger predictor of well-being than minutes of PA per week. Both in-house and out-of-house PA were beneficial.
Kang, et al. (2020) [55] Cross-sectional study, 4898 adolescents (52% girls, mean age 16.3 ± 1.3 years), online survey between March 8th and 15th, 2020, China. Physical Activity (IPAQ).
Mood states (Profile of Mood States).
6 Higher levels of PA were significantly associated with lower levels of total mood disturbance.
  1. Abbreviation: PA physical activity, PAR 24-h physical activity recall, STAIC State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children, PANAS-C Positive and Negative Affect Schedule for Children, MVPA Moderate and vigorous physical activity, VPA Vigorous Physical Activity, FCV-19 Chinese version of the Fear of COVID-19 Scale, HPLP-II sub-scale of the Chinese version of the Health Promoting Lifestyle Profile-II, IPAQ-SF International Physical Activity Questionnaire Short Form, YSIS Youth Self-Rating Insomnia Scales, PHQ-9 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire, GAD-7 Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale, PA Physical Activity, IPAQ International Physical Activity Questionnaire, WHO-5 World Health Organization’s Five Well-being Index, 4DMS 4-Dimensional Mood Scale
  2. aAccording to the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS)