Background: Moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) can help to prevent depression, but identification of the most important psycho-biological pathways involved is unclear. The improvement of cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF) in response to MVPA can vary markedly, we therefore examined the association between CRF and the incidence of depressive symptoms.Methods: We used data from The Maastricht Study, a large population-based prospective-cohort study. CRF was estimated at baseline from a graded submaximal exercise protocol and MVPA was measured with accelerometry. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the validated Dutch version of the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire, both at baseline and during annual follow-up over five years. Cox proportional hazards models were used.Results: A total of 1,730 individuals without depressive symptoms at baseline were included in the analysis. During the 5-year follow-up, n = 166 (9.6%) of individuals developed depressive symptoms. Compared to individuals with a low CRF, those with a moderate-to-high CRF had a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms, independent of MVPA (medium CRF: HR = 0.49 (95%CI = 0.33-0.72); high CRF: HR = 0.48 (95% CI = 0.30-0.75). These associations were adjusted for age, sex, level of education, diabetes status, smoking status, alcohol use, energy intake, waist circumferences and antidepressant medications.Limitations: PHQ-9 is a validated screening instrument, but it is not a diagnostic tool of depression.Conclusions: Higher CRF was strongly associated with a lower risk of incident depressive symptoms over 5-year follow-up, independent of the level of MVPA at baseline, suggesting that interventions aimed at improving CRF could reduce the risk of depression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-490
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


  • cardiorespiratory fitness
  • cohort studies
  • depression
  • disease
  • exercise
  • incidence
  • prospective studies
  • prospective study
  • validation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Cohort Studies

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