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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Leisure-time physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness and feelings of hopelessness in men

Maarit Valtonen12*, David E Laaksonen23, Jari Laukkanen4, Tommi Tolmunen5, Rainer Rauramaa6, Heimo Viinamäki5, Jussi Kauhanen4, Timo Lakka36 and Leo Niskanen2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Central Finland Central Hospital, Keskussairaalantie 19, 40620 Jyväskylä, Finland

2 Department of Medicine, Kuopio University Hospital, PL 1777, 70211 Kuopio, Finland

3 Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Physiology, University of Kuopio, PL 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland

4 School of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Kuopio, PL 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland

5 Department of Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital, PL 1777, 70211 Kuopio, Finland

6 Kuopio Research Institute of Exercise Medicine, Haapaniementie 16, 70100 Kuopio, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:204  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-204

Published: 25 June 2009



Leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) and cardiorespiratory fitness contribute to mental health. Hopelessness has been linked to impaired mental health, cardiovascular events and mortality. Previous studies have focused on physical exercise and depression. We examined the associations of LTPA and cardiorespiratory fitness with feelings of hopelessness.


In this cross-sectional study leisure-time physical activity, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), hopelessness and cardiovascular risk factors were assessed in a population-based cohort of 2428 men aged 42 – 60 years old at baseline.


Men feeling more hopeless about their future and reaching goals were less physically active, less fit and had a higher prevalence of many cardiovascular risk factors than men with lower levels of hopelessness. In a logistic regression model adjusted for age, smoking, alcohol consumption, cardiovascular disease and socioeconomic status, men engaging in less than 60 min/week of moderate-to-vigorous LTPA were 37% (95% CI 11 – 67%) more likely to feel hopeless than those engaging in at least 2.5 h/wk of LTPA. After further adjusting for elevated depressive symptoms the association of LTPA and hopelessness remained significant. VO2max was also associated with hopelessness, but not after adjustment for depressive symptoms.


Moderate and vigorous LTPA and cardiorespiratory fitness were inversely associated with hopelessness in these middle-aged men. These findings suggest that physical inactivity and poor cardiorespiratory fitness is an important associate of hopelessness, a distinct element of low subjective well-being.