Research article| Volume 29, ISSUE 4, P265-272, November 2005

Download started.


Prospective Study of Physical Activity and Depressive Symptoms in Middle-Aged Women


      Although many studies support an inverse association between physical activity (PA) and depressive symptoms, prospective relationships between these variables have been confounded by pre-existing psychological and physical health problems.


      This study examined the dose–response relationships between self-reported PA and depressive symptoms, using cross-sectional and prospective data from a population-based cohort of middle-aged women who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) between 1996 and 2001. Participants completed three mailed surveys (S1, 1996; S2, 1998; S3, 2001), which included questions about time spent in walking, moderate- and vigorous-intensity PA, and measures of psychological health (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale [CESD-10], and Mental health [MH] subscale of the Short Form 36 survey). Relationships between previous (S1, S2), current (S3), and habitual (S1, S2, S3) PA and “depressive symptoms” were examined, adjusting for sociodemographic and health-related variables (n=9207).


      Mean CESD-10 scores decreased, and MH scores increased with increasing levels of previous, current, and habitual activity. Odds ratios for CESD-10 scores ≥10 or MH scores ≤52 at S3 were 30% to 40% lower among women who reported the equivalent of ≥60 minutes of moderate-intensity PA per week, compared with those who reported less PA than this. Women who were in the lowest PA category at S1, but who subsequently reported ≥240 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET.mins) per week had lower odds of CESD-10 scores of ≥10 or MH scores ≤52 at S3 than those who remained in the very low PA category.


      These data suggest that there is a clear relationship between increasing PA and decreasing depressive symptoms in middle-aged women, independent of pre-existing physical and psychological health.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to American Journal of Preventive Medicine
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
        Physical activity and health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Heath Promotion, Atlanta GA1996
        • Farmer M.E.
        • Locke B.Z.
        • Moscicki E.K.
        • Dannenberg A.L.
        • Larson D.B.
        • Radloff L.S.
        Physical activity and depressive symptoms.
        Am J Epidemiol. 1988; 128: 1340-1351
        • Camacho T.C.
        • Roberts R.E.
        • Lazarus N.B.
        • Kaplan G.A.
        • Cohen R.D.
        Physical activity and depression.
        Am J Epidemiol. 1991; 134: 220-231
        • Paffenbarger Jr, R.S.
        • Lee I.-M.
        • Leung R.
        Physical activity and personal characteristics associated with depression and students in American college men.
        Acta Scand Suppl. 1994; 377: 16-22
        • Weyerer S.
        Physical inactivity and depression in the community.
        Int J Sports Med. 1992; 13: 492-496
        • Fox K.R.
        The influence of physical activity on mental well-being.
        Public Health Nutr. 1999; 2: 411-418
        • Paluska S.A.
        • Schwenk T.L.
        Physical activity and mental health.
        Sports Med. 2000; 29: 167-180
        • Dunn A.L.
        • Trivedi M.H.
        • O’Neal H.
        Physical activity dose–response effects on outcomes of depression and anxiety.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001; 33: S587-S597
        • Lawlor D.A.
        • Hopker S.W.
        The effectiveness of exercise as an intervention in the management of depression.
        BMJ. 2001; 322: 763-767
        • Cooper-Patrick L.
        • Ford D.E.
        • Mead L.A.
        • Chang P.P.
        • Klag M.J.
        Exercise and depression in midlife.
        Am J Public Health. 1997; 87: 670-674
        • Strawbridge W.J.
        • Deleger S.
        • Roberts R.
        • Kaplan G.A.
        Physical activity reduces the risk of subsequent depression for older adults.
        Am J Epidemiol. 2002; 156: 328-334
        • Mobily K.E.
        • Rubenstein L.M.
        • Lemke J.H.
        • O’Hara M.W.
        • Wallace R.B.
        Walking and depression in a cohort of older adults.
        J Aging Phys Activity. 1996; 4: 119-135
        • Kritz-Silverstein D.
        • Barrett-Connor
        • Corbeau C.
        Cross-sectional and prospective study of exercise and depressed mood in the elderly.
        Am J Epidemiol. 2001; 153 (??): 596-603
        • Lampinen P.
        • Heikkinen R.L.
        • Ruoppila I.
        Changes in intensity of physical exercise as predictors of depressive symptoms among older adults.
        Prev Med. 2000; 30: 371-380
        • World Health Organization
        The world health report 2001.
        Mental health. World Health Organization, Geneva2001
        • Brown W.J.
        • Bryson L.
        • Byles J.E.
        • et al.
        Women’s Health Australia.
        Women Health. 1998; 28: 23-40
        • Andresen E.M.
        • Malmgren J.A.
        • Carter W.B.
        • Patrick D.L.
        Screening for depression in well older adults.
        Am J Prev Med. 1994; 10: 77-84
        • Ware Jr, J.E.
        • Sherbourne C.D.
        The MOS 36-item short-form health survey (SF-36). I. Conceptual framework and item selection.
        Med Care. 1992; 30: 473-483
        • Walters S.J.
        Using the SF-36 with older adults.
        Age Ageing. 2001; 30: 337-343
        • Risk Factor Prevalence Management Committee
        Risk Factor Prevalence Study. National Heart Foundation of Australia, and Australian Institute of Health, Canberra1990
        • Brown W.J.
        • Bauman A.E.
        Comparison of estimates of population levels of physical activity using two measures.
        Aust N Z J Public Health. 2000; 24: 52-55
        • Booth M.L.
        • Owen N.
        • Bauman A.
        • Gore C.J.
        Retest reliability of recall measures of leisure-time physical activity in Australian adults.
        Int J Epidemiol. 1996; 25: 153-159
        • Armstrong T.
        • Bauman A.
        • Davies J.
        Physical activity patterns of Australian adults.
        Results of the 1999 National Physical Activity Survey. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra2000
        • Brown W.J.
        • Trost S.G.
        • Bauman A.
        • Mummery K.
        • Owen N.
        Test-retest reliability of four physical activity measures used in population surveys.
        J Sci Med Sport. 2004; 7: 205-215
        • Timperio A.
        • Salmon J.
        • Rosenberg M.
        • Bull F.C.
        Do logbooks influence recall of physical activity in validation studies?.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004; 36: 1181-1186
        • Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care
        National physical activity guidelines for Australians. Department of Health and Aged Care, Canberra1999
        • Sallis J.F.
        • Owen N.
        Physical activity and behavioral medicine.
        Sage, Thousand Oaks CA1999
        • Trost S.G.
        • Owen N.
        • Bauman A.
        • Sallis J.F.
        • Brown W.B.
        Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002; 34: 1996-2001
        • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
        Australia’s health 2004. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra2004
        • Beeber L.S.
        • Shea J.
        • McCorkle R.
        The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale as a measure of depressive symptoms in newly diagnosed patients.
        J Psychosocial Oncol. 1998; 16: 1-20
        • Brown N.
        • Melville M.
        • Gray D.
        • Young T.
        • Skene A.M.
        • Hampton J.R.
        Comparison of the SF-36 health survey questionnaire with the Nottingham Health Profile in long-term survivors of a myocardial infarction.
        J Public Health Med. 2000; 22: 167-175
        • Coldtiz G.A.
        • Coakley E.
        Weight, weight gain, activity, and major illnesses.
        Int J Sports Med. 1997; 18: S162-S170
        • Dunn A.L.
        • Trivedi M.H.
        • Kampert J.B.
        • Clark C.G.
        • Chambliss H.O.
        Exercise treatment for depression. Efficacy and dose response.
        Am J Prev Med. 2005; 28: 1-8
        • Mathers C.
        • Vos T.
        • Stevenson C.
        The burden of disease and injury in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra1999 (PHE 17)