Physical Exercise and Depressive Symptoms among Undergraduate Students in a Tertiary Institution in Nigeria


  • Chukwuma Ugochukwu Okeafor University of Port Harcourt
  • Izuchukwu Okeafor University of Port Harcourt


physical exercise, depression, mental health, students, Nigeria


Background: The benefit of physical exercise in weight reduction and cardiovascular disease prevention is well known. However, its influence on mental health has scarcely been investigated. This study sought to explore the relationship between physical exercise and depressive symptoms among undergraduate students in a tertiary institution.

Materials and Method: A cross-sectional study was carried out among students of Alvan Ikoku College of Education in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. Multi-stage sampling was used in the selection of students. Validated tools of Godin-Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (GLEQ) and Becks Depression Inventory (BDI) were used to assess physical exercise and depressive symptoms respectively among the students. Higher BDI scores indicates more depressive symptoms. Multiple liner regression analysis was performed at 0.05 significant level.

Results: The study comprised of 105 males and 187 females, making a total of 292 students. The mean age was 22.8 (+ 4.34) years with age range of 17 to 43 years. A higher proportion of the students do not engage in regular physical exercise (64.0%). The BDI scores were lower among those who regularly engage in physical exercise in comparison to those who did not (13.23±10.79 versus 16.49±10.46; t=-2.525; p-value=0.012). Multiple linear regression analysis shows that BDI scores reduces by 3.317 with regular physical exercise (β= -3.317; 95% CI: -5.847,-0.787; p-value=0.010).

Conclusion: Close to two-thirds of the students in the study do not regularly engage in physical exercise. Physical exercise has a preventive influence on depressive symptoms. Therefore, stakeholders at all levels should encourage regular physical exercise among students in Nigeria.

Author Biography

Chukwuma Ugochukwu Okeafor, University of Port Harcourt

Senior Lecturer,

Department of Mental Health,

University of Port Harcourt


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How to Cite

Okeafor, C. U., & Okeafor, I. (2020). Physical Exercise and Depressive Symptoms among Undergraduate Students in a Tertiary Institution in Nigeria. The Nigerian Health Journal, 19(3), 128–135. Retrieved from

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