Objectives: Indigenous Australians experience higher levels of psychological distress compared to the general population. Physical activity is a culturally acceptable approach, associated with reduction of depressive symptoms. The protective properties of physical activity for depressive symptoms are yet to be evaluated in older Indigenous Australians.
Design: A two-phase study design comprised of a qualitative thematic analysis following a quantitative regression and moderation analysis.
Participants: Firstly, a total of 336 Indigenous Australians aged 60 years and over from five NSW areas participated in assessments on mental health, physical activity participation, and childhood trauma. Secondly, a focus group of seven Indigenous Australians was conducted to evaluate barriers and facilitators to physical activity.
Measurements: Regression and moderation analyses examined links between depression, childhood trauma, and physical activity. Thematic analysis was conducted exploring facilitators and barriers to physical activity following the focus group.
Results: Childhood trauma severity and intensity of physical activity predicted depressive symptoms. Physical activity did not affect the strength of the relationship between childhood trauma and depression. Family support and low impact activities facilitated commitment to physical activity. In contrast, poor mental health, trauma, and illness acted as barriers.
Conclusion: Physical activity is an appropriate approach for reducing depressive symptoms and integral in maintaining health and quality of life. While situational factors, health problems and trauma impact physical activity, accessing low-impact group activities with social support was identified to help navigate these barriers.