Month/Year of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Health, Physical Education and Recreation

First Advisor

Saundra Shillingstad


The goal of this study was to evaluate if exercise would decrease depressive symptoms of participants who reported having coexisting conditions of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and depression. Research has reported that autistic people have increased rates of depression, in comparison to general populations (Unruh et al., 2020). The purpose of this research was to evaluate if exercise would decrease depressive symptoms of the Unified Fitness athlete participants who self-identified as having depressive symptoms and ASD. This research was conducted during the Fall 2023 semester as an extension of the class Kinesiology Practicum, using the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) Unified Fitness Club (UUFC) athletes. A survey was taken before and after each UUFC exercise class over the course of a 5-week period. The survey analyzed the effect of the athletes Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to determine the degree of which exercise intensity influenced the magnitude of antidepressive effects. It was hypothesized that the Unified Fitness Athlete’s mood would increase post exercise as measured by RPE. Following analysis of the data, the results supported that Unified Fitness athletes did on average achieve increased mood quality post exercise when compared to their pre-exercise baselines. The result revealed that exercise was causational in its ability to decrease depressive symptoms for the Unified Fitness athlete participants.