Physical activity and depression in middle and older-aged adults with multiple sclerosis

The findings reported in this paper were presented at the 2011 5th Joint Triennial Congress of the European and Americas Committees for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Mark P. Jensen, Ph.D., Ivan R. Molton, Ph.D., Kevin J. Gertz, M.P.A., Charles H. Bombardier, Ph.D., Dori E. Rosenberg, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA

Published Online: July 16, 2012

Disability and Health Journal, October 2012 Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages 269–276



Depression is common among people with multiple sclerosis (MS), and research shows that individuals, including individuals with MS, who are more physically active report lower rates of depression. However, little is known about the relative importance of level of physical activity (e.g., moderate versus vigorous) in relationship to depression, or the role that age might play in this relationship among people with MS. The current study sought to (1) clarify the associations between moderate and vigorous physical activity and depression in a sample of individuals with MS, (2) determine the associations between age and physical activity, and (3) test for the potential moderating influence of age on the associations between physical activity and depression.


Cross-sectional survey.


112 individuals with MS completed a survey assessing demographic variables, amount of moderate and vigorous physical activity, and depression.


There was a gradual decrease in the amount of moderate and vigorous physical activity as age increased, but this decrease was not statistically significant. Moderate physical activity was significantly (negatively) associated with depression across all age cohorts. Time spent in vigorous physical activity was significantly (negatively) associated with depression among the middle-aged but not younger or older participants who are physically active.


The findings support a link between moderate physical activity and depression and, for middle-aged individuals, vigorous physical activity and depression in persons with MS. The findings indicate that research examining the impact of activity enhancing treatments on depression in individuals with MS is warranted.