Objectively measured light and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is associated with lower depression levels among older US adults

Aging Ment Health. 2013;17(7):801-5. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2013.801066. Epub 2013 Jun 3.


Objectives: We have a limited understanding of the epidemiological association between objectively measured physical activity and depression among older adults. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the association between accelerometer-assessed physical activity and depression symptoms among a nationally representative sample of US older adults.

Methods: Data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was used. 708 older adults (65+ years) wore an ActiGraph 7164 accelerometer for at least 4 days, and completed data on the study covariates along with depression, as assessed by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9.

Results: After controlling for age, gender, race-ethnicity, body mass index, marital status, education, comorbidity index, and physical functioning, for every 60-minute increase in light-intensity physical activity, participants were 20% (OR = 0.80; 95% CI: 0.67-0.95; p = 0.01) less likely to be depressed. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was also inversely associated with depression (OR = 0.78; 95% CI: 0.64-0.94; p = 0.01).

Conclusion: These findings suggest that promoting physical activity, even light-intensity physical activity, may have positive mental health effects among older adults. Future prospective and experimental studies are warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry / methods
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology