Physical activity, but not fitness level, is associated with depression in Australian adults

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Jul-Aug;55(7-8):845-54.


Aim: The objective of this study was to evaluate the fitness and physical activity levels of people referred to a nutrition and physical activity program for the management of mental health in general practice.

Methods: General practitioners referred 109 patients being treated for depression and/or anxiety to a lifestyle intervention program. All participants completed anthropometric measurements and questionnaires including the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS) and the Active Australia Survey. Aerobic fitness was measured with the YMCA step test and muscular fitness was measured with repeated chair stands and arm curls. Fitness scores were compared to population norms, and physical activity levels were compared to population norms and national recommendations.

Results: Eighty percent of participants were overweight or obese. A greater proportion of study participants (51%) than the general Australian population (38%) met the recommended 150 minutes per week spent in moderate physical activity. However, participants demonstrated lower than average levels of fitness and participated in low levels of vigorous physical activity.

Conclusion: Levels of physical activity, but not fitness, were inversely correlated with DASS scores. Patients presenting with depression and/or anxiety should be screened for physical activity behaviours and encouraged to meet the National Physical Activity Guidelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales