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Midlife Fitness Linked with Lower Depression Risk

JAMA Psychiatry; ePub 2018 Jun 27; Willis, et al

Midlife fitness is associated with a lower risk of later-life depression, cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, and CVD mortality after incident later-life depression, according to a recent study. This retrospective cohort study at a single-center, community-based, preventive medicine clinic was performed as part of the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. Participants (n=17,989, [80.2% men] with a mean [SD] age of 50.0 [8.7] years) included generally healthy individuals who presented for preventive medicine examinations at midlife and who were eligible for Medicare from 1999 to 2010. Researchers found:

  • After 117,218 person-years of Medicare follow-up, 2,701 depression diagnoses, 610 deaths due to CVD without prior depression, and 231 deaths due to CVD after depression were observed.
  • A high level of fitness in midlife was associated with a 16% lower risk of depression compared with a low level of fitness.
  • A high fitness level was also associated with a 61% lower risk of death due to CVD without depression compared with a low level of fitness.
  • After a diagnosis of depression, a high fitness level was associated with a 56% lower risk of death due to CVD compared with a low fitness level.


Willis BL, Leonard D, Barlow CE, Martin SB, DeFina LF, Trivedi MH. Association of midlife cardiorespiratory fitness with incident depression and cardiovascular death after depression in later life. [Published online ahead of print June 27, 2018]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.1467.