Physical Activity, Approach-Avoidance Temperament and Depressive Symptoms

  • Javier Fernandez-Rio Universidad de Oviedo


The goal was to assess the connections between vigorous physical activity (VPA), approach-avoidance temperament and depressive symptoms. Two studies were conducted. Study 1, correlational, the hypothesis was that METs-VPA will be linked to depressive symptoms via its impact on both dimensions of temperament (approach and avoidance). 335 college students completed the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, the Depressive Symptoms Scale (DSS), and the Approach-Avoidance Temperament Questionnaire (Ap-AvTQ). Results showed that both avoidance and approach temperament could be considered potential mediators between VPA and depressive symptoms. The direct and total effects of VPA (mediated by approach-avoidance temperament) over depressive symptoms were -.1453 (p = .006) and -.0581 (p = .2549), respectively; while the indirect effect through both mediators was -.0872 (p = .0002). Study 2, longitudinal, the hypothesis that the model described in study 1 was invariant across time. A VPA program was conducted in 149 college students. Participants completed the DSS and the Ap-AvTQ. The true intraindividual change modeling technique, a more direct approach to modeling interindividual differences in intraindividual change without using a control group, showed that participants’ depressive symptoms were predicted through both mediators of temperament: approach (γ = -.24, p = .003) and avoidance (γ = .30, P < .001). VPA was positively linked to approach-temperament, which was negatively connected to depressive symptoms. VPA was negatively linked to avoidance-temperament, which was positively connected to depressive symptoms. It seems possible to influence depressive symptoms through both dimensions of temperament using VPA.


Adamson, B.C., Ensari, I., & Motl, R.W. (2015). The effect of exercise on depressive symptoms in adults with neurological disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2015.01.005

Ainsworth, B.E., Haskell, W.L., Whitt, M.C., Irwin, M.L., Swartz, A.M., Strath, S.J., ... Leon, A.S. (2000). Compendium of physical activities: an update of activity codes and MET intensities. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(9), Suppl., 498–516.

Bates, J.E. (1989). Concepts and measures of temperament. In G.A. Kohnstamm, J.E. Bates, & M.K. Rothbart (Eds.), Temperament in childhood (pp. 3–26). Oxford, England: Wiley.

Beardslee, W.R., & Knitzer, J. (2004). Mental health services: A family systems approach. In K. Maton, C. Shellenbach, B. Leadbeater, & A. Solarz (Eds.) Investing in children, youth, families, and communities: Strengths-based research and policy (pp. 147-183). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bentler, P.M. (2006). EQS 6 structural equations program manual. Encino, CA: Multivariate Software.

Brammer, W.A., & Lee, S.S. (2013). Prosociality and Negative Emotionality Mediate the Association of Serotonin Transporter Genotype With Childhood ADHD and ODD. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 42, 809-819.

Byrne, B.M. (2005). Testing for multigroup equivalence of a measuring instrument: A walk through the process. Psicothema, 20(4), 872-882.

Choi, W.S., Patten, C.A., Gillin, J.C., Kaplan, R.M., & Pierce, J.P. (1997). Cigarette smoking predicts development of depressive symptoms among US adolescents. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 19, 42–50.

Craft, L.L., & Perna, F.M. (2004). The benefits of exercise for the clinically depressed. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 6, 104–111.

Craig, C.L., Marshall, A.L., Sjöström, M., Bauman, A. E., Booth, M.L., Ainsworth, B.E., ... Oja, P. (2003). The IPAQ Consensus Group and the IPAQ Reliability and Validity Study Group. International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ): 12-country reliability and validity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 35, 1381-1395.

Davidson, R. J. (1998). Affective style and affective disorders: Perspectives from affective neuroscience. Cognition & Emotion, 12, 307–330.

Elliot, A.J., & Thrash, T. (2002). Approach-Avoidance Motivation in Personality: Approach and Avoidance Temperaments and Goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(5), 804-818.

Elliot, A. J., & Thrash, T. (2010). Approach and Avoidance Temperament as Basic Dimensions of Personality. Journal of Personality, 78, 865-906.

Elovainio, M., Jokela, M., Rosenström, T., Pulkki-Råbäck, L., Hakulinen, C., Josefsson, K., .... Keltikangas-Järvinen, L. (2015). Temperament and depressive symptoms: What is the direction of the association? Journal of Affective Disorders, 170, 1, 203–212.

Epstein, J. (1988). Effective schools or effective students? Dealing with diversity. In R. Haskins & B. MacRae (Eds.) Policies for America's public schools (pp. 89-126). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Galambos, N., Leadbeater, B., & Barker, E. (2004). Gender differences in and risk factors for depression in adolescence: A 4-year longitudinal study. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28(1), 16-25.

Gonda, X., Fountoulakis, K.N., Juhasz, G., Rihmer, Z., Lazary, J., Laszik, A., ... Bagdy, G. (2009). Association of the s allele of the 5-HTTLPR with neuroticism-related traits and temperaments in a psychiatrically healthy population. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 259, 106-113.

Hankin, B.J. (2015). Depression from childhood through adolescence: risk mechanisms across multiple systems and levels of analysis. Current Oppinion in Psychology, 4, 13–20.

Henderson, H.A., & Wachs, T.D. (2007).Temperament theory and the study of cognition–emotion interactions across development. Developmental Review, 27, 396-427.

Henriques, J.B., & Davidson, R. (2000). Decreased responsiveness to reward in depression. Cognition & Emotion. 14, 711–724.

Horwath, E., Johnson, J., Klerman, G.L., & Weissman, M.M. (1992). Depressive symptoms as relative and attributable risk factors for first-onset major depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 49(10), 817-823.

Judd, L.L., & Paulus, M.P. (1996). Socioeconomic burden of subsyndromal depressive symptoms ans major depression in a sample of the general population. American Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 1411-1417.

Kandel, D.B., & Davies, M. (1982). Epidemiology of depressive mood in adolescents: An empirical study. Archives of Geneneral Psychiatry, 39, 1205–1212.

Kovacs, M., & Lopez-Duran, N. (2010). Prodromal symptoms and atypical affectivity as predictors of major depression in juveniles: Implications for prevention. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(4), 472–496.

Lee, C., & Russell, A. (2003). Effects of physical activity on emotional well-being among older Australian women: cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 54(2), 155-160.

Li, J.J., & Lee, S.S. (2014). Temperament dimensions mediate the association of 5-HTTLPR genotype and depression symptoms in children. Psychiatric Research, 215, 163-169.

Little, T.D., Cunningham, W.A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K.F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 151–173. doi:10.1207/ S15328007SEM0902_1

Lyness, J.M., Kim, J., Tang, W., Tu, X., Conwell, Y., King, D.A., & Caine, E.D. (2007). The clinical significance of subsyndromal depression in older primary care patients. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 15(3), 214–223.

Mavroveli, S., Petrides, K.V., Rieffe, C., & Bakker, F. (2007). Trait emotional intelligence, psychological well-being and peer-rated social competence in adolescence. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 25, 263-275.

Melancon, M.O., Lorrain, D., & Dionne, I.J. (2012). Exercise increases tryptophan availability to the brain in older men aged 57–70 years. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44(5), 881–887.

Ono, Y., Ando, J., Onoda, N., Yoshimura, K., Momose, T., Hirano, M., & Kanba, S. (2002). Dimensions of temperament as vulnerability factors in depression. Mollecular Psychiatry, 7, 948–953.

Posner, M.I., Rothbart, M.K., & Sheese, B.E. (2007). Attention genes. Developmental Science, 10, 24-29.

Preacher, K.J., & Hayes, A.F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879-891.

Rethorst, C.D., Landers, D.M., Nagoshi, C.T., & Ross, J.T. (2011). The association of 5-HTTLPR genotype and depressive symptoms is moderated by physical activity. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 45, 185–189. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.05.007

Satorra, A., & Bentler, P.M. (1988). Scaling corrections for statistics in covariance structure analysis (UCLA Statistics Series 2). Los Angeles: University of California at Los Angeles, Department of Psychology.

Service, S.K., Verweij, K.J.H., Lahti, J., Congdon, E., Ekelund, J., Hintsanen, M., ... Freimer, N.B. (2012). A genome-wide meta-analysis of association studies of Cloninger's Temperament Scales. Translational psychiatry, 2(5), e116.

Spielberg, J.M., Heller, W., Silton, R.L., Stewart, J.L., & Miller, G.A. (2011). Approach and avoidance profiles distinguish dimensions of anxiety and depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 35(4), 359–371. doi:10.1007/s10608-011-9364-0

Steyer, R. (2005). Analyzing individual and average causal effects. Methodology, 1, 39–54.

Steyer, R., Eid, M., & Schwenkmezger, P. (1997). Modeling true intraindividual change: True change as a latent variable. Methods of Psychological Research Online, 2(1), 21-33.

Steyer, R., Partchev, I., & Shanahan, M.J. (2000). Modelling true intraindividual change in structural equation models: The case of poverty and children’s psychosocial adjustment. In T. D. Little, K. U. Schnabel, & J. Baumert (Eds.), Modelling longitudinal and multilevel data: Practical issues, applied approaches, and specific examples (pp. 109-126). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Vallance, J.K., Winkler, E.A., Gardiner, P.A., Healy, G.N., Lynch, B.M., & Owen, N. (2011). Associations of objectively-assessed physical activity and sedentary time with depression. Preventive Medicine, 53, 284-288. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.07.013.

Wachs, T.D. (2006). The nature, etiology and consequences of individual differences in temperament. In T. LeMonda, & L. Balter (Eds.), Child psychology: A handbook of contemporary issues (2nd ed.) (pp. 27-52). New York: Garland.

Wachs, T.D., & Kohnstamm, G.A. (Eds.) (2001). Temperament in context. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Wise, L.A., Adams-Campbell, L.L., Palmer, J.R., & Rosenberg, L. (2006). Leisure time physical activity in relation to depressive symptoms in the black women’s health study. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 32(1), 68-76

World Health Organization (2012). Depression. A global public health concern. Retreived from: