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Relationships of leisure-time and non-leisure-time physical activity with depressive symptoms: a population-based study of Taiwanese older adults

Li-Jung Chen1*, Clare Stevinson2, Po-Wen Ku34, Yu-Kai Chang5 and Da-Chen Chu46

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Exercise Health Science, National Taiwan University of Physical Education and Sport, No. 16, Section 1, Shuang-Shih Rd, Taichung 404, Taiwan

2 School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK

3 Graduate Institute of Sports and Health, National Changhua University of Education, No. 1 Jin-De Rd, Changhua 500, Taiwan

4 Institute of Public Health, National Yang-Ming University, No.155, Sec.2, Linong Street, Taipei 112, Taiwan

5 Graduate Institute of Coaching Science, National Taiwan Sport University, No.250, Wenhua 1st Rd., Guishan Shiang, Taoyuan County 333, Taiwan

6 Department of Neurosurgery, Taipei City Hospital, No.145, Zhengzhou Rd., Datong District, Taipei 103, Taiwan

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:28  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-28

Published: 14 March 2012



Limited research has explored the relationship between non-leisure-time physical activity (NLTPA), including domestic and work-related physical activities, with depressive symptoms. This study was designed to elucidate independent associations between leisure-time physical activity (LTPA), NLTPA, and specific parameters of physical activity (frequency, duration and intensity) with depressive symptoms in older adults.


A total of 2,727 persons aged ≥ 65 years participating in the 2005 Taiwan National Health Interview Survey were studied. Depressive symptoms were measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Information regarding energy parameters for each type of LTPA and NLTPA during the past 2-week period was analyzed. After adjusting for socio-demographic variables, lifestyle behaviors and health status, multivariate logistic regression models were used to compute adjusted odds ratios (AOR) for LTPA and NLTPA for predicting depressive symptoms.


LTPA but not NLTPA was significantly associated with depressive symptoms. Compared with participants expending 2000+ kcal/week through LTPA, the risk of experiencing depressive symptoms was significantly higher for those expending 1-999 kcal/week (AOR = 2.06, 95% CI: 1.25-3.39), and those who expending 0 kcal/week (AOR = 3.72, 95%CI: 2.28-6.06). Among the three parameters of LTPA (intensity, duration and frequency) examined, only intensity was independently associated with depressive symptoms.


These findings imply that exercise recommendations for older adults should emphasize the importance of higher intensity activity, rather than frequency or duration, for improved mental well-being. However, well-designed prospective cohort studies or intervention trials are needed to confirm these findings.

Exercise; Depression; Aging; Intensity; Non leisure-time physical activity