, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 68-76

Leisure time physical activity in relation to depressive symptoms in the black women’s health study

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Background: A growing body of evidence suggests that physical activity might reduce the risk of depressive symptoms, but there are limited data on Black women.Purpose: The objective was to evaluate the association between leisure time physical activity and depressive symptoms in U.S. Black women.Methods: Participants included 35,224 women ages 21 to 69 from the BlackWomen’s Health Study, a follow-up study of African American women in which data are collected biennially by mail questionnaire.Women answered questions on past and current exercise levels at baseline (1995) and follow-up (1997). The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) was used to measure depressive symptoms in 1999. Women who reported a diagnosis of depression before 1999 were excluded. We used multivariate logistic regression models to compute odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for physical activity in relation to depressive symptoms (CES-D score <= 16) with control for potential confounders.Results: Adult vigorous physical activity was inversely associated with depressive symptoms. Women who reported vigorous exercise both in high school (<= 5 hr per week) and adulthood (<= 2 hr per week) had the lowest odds of depressive symptoms (OR = 0.76, 95% CI = 0.71−0.82) relative to never active women; the OR was 0.90 for women who were active in high school but not adulthood (95% CI = 0.85-0.96) and 0.83 for women who were inactive in high school but became active in adulthood (95% CI = 0.77-0.91). Although walking for exercise was not associated with risk of depressive symptoms overall, there was evidence of a weak inverse relation among obese women (Body Mass Index <= 30).Conclusions: Leisure time vigorous physical activity was associated with a reduced odds of depressive symptoms in U.S. Black women.

This work was supported by National Cancer Institute grant CA58420. We thank the Black Women’s Health Study participants and staff for their contribution to this study.