It remains unclear whether all physical activity (PA) domains (e.g., occupation-related PA [OPA], transportation-related PA [TPA], and leisure-time PA [LTPA]) have equivalent beneficial relationships. We aimed to investigate the associations of OPA, TPA, and LTPA with depressive symptoms in adults.
We included and analyzed 31,221 participants (aged ≥18 years) from the cross-sectional 2007–2018 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The PA domains were assessed by a self-report questionnaire and categorized based on the PA guidelines. Depressive symptoms were measured by the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire.
Participants achieving PA guidelines (≥150 min/week) were 26% (odds ratio [OR] 0.74, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.68–0.80) and 43% (OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.51–0.62) less likely to have depressive symptoms depending on total PA and LTPA, respectively, while OPA or TPA did not demonstrate lower risks of depressive symptoms. LTPA at levels of 1–149, 150–299, and ≥300 min/week was associated with 31% (OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.60–0.78), 43% (OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.49–0.67), and 51% (OR 0.49, 95% CI 0.43–0.55) lower odds of depressive symptoms, respectively.
LTPA, but not OPA or TPA, was associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms at any amount, suggesting that significant mental health would benefit from increased PA, even at levels below the recommendation.