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 Black Women'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. © 2006 by The Society of Behavioral Medicine.

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