Objective: The aim of this prospective study was to investigate the reciprocal nature of the physical activity-depressive symptoms relationship in 17,593 older adults from 11 European countries older adults (M age = 64.07, SD = 9.58) across two-year follow-up. Also, gender and age were examined as potential moderators of this relation.
Method: A two-wave cross-lagged panel design and latent change score models with structural equation modeling was used to analyze data. Depressive symptoms were measured at baseline (T1) and follow-up (T2) using the EURO-D scale, capturing the two factors of affective suffering and motivation. Physical activity was measured at T1 and T2 as frequency of moderate physical activity and vigorous physical activity.
Results: Cross-sectional latent variable analyses revealed that higher levels of physical activity at T1 and T2 were associated with lower levels of affective suffering and motivation at T1 and T2. Physical activity at T1 was significantly associated with affective suffering and motivation at T2. The relations of depressive symptoms at T1 with physical activity at T2 were not significant. However, a cross-lagged model showed best model fit, supporting a reciprocal prospective relationship between physical activity and depressive symptoms in older adults. Latent change in depressive symptoms factors was related to latent change in physical activity indicating complex and dynamic associations across time.
Conclusions: Regular physical activity may be a valuable tool in the prevention of future depressive symptoms in older adults, and depressive symptoms may also prevent older adults from engaging in regular physical activity.