Physical activity and mental health among Chinese adolescents

Jianxiu Liu, Mengmeng Ji, Caitlin Vitosky Clarke, Ruidong Liu, Xindong Ma, Ruopeng An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: We assessed the relationship between physical activity (PA) and mental health among Chinese adolescents. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey in 4 Chinese cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Nanchang, and Urumchi. We randomly selected 25 schools from these cities in both urban and suburban areas. A total of 9269 adolescents completed the survey. We conducted multilevel logistic regressions to examine the relationship between PA engagement and mental health, adjusting for various sample characteristics. Results: Compared to those with low levels of daily PA, adolescents with moderate and high levels of daily PA had lower odds of having learning anxiety (23% for moderate and 37% for high), solitude tendency (52% for moderate and 41% for high), self-accusation (13% for moderate and 15% for high), experiencing sensitivity (15% for moderate and 13% for high), physical symptoms (20% for moderate and 21% for high), and a general mental health problem (total score of all the domains: 41% and 34%). Conclusions: An increase in PA participation holds the potential to improve multiple mental health domains among Chinese adolescents. Future longitudinal or experimental research is warranted to confirm findings from this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-322
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican journal of health behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Chinese adolescents
  • Mental health
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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