Aim The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between physical activity (PA) and depressive symptoms in community‐dwelling older Japanese adults. Methods A cross‐sectional study design was used to obtain data from 3191 community‐dwelling older Japanese adults aged 70–95 years. Depressive symptoms were assessed using self‐reported scores on the Geriatric Depression Scale‐15. PA was objectively measured using an accelerometer worn for a maximum of 40 days, and average daily durations of light‐intensity PA (LPA), moderate‐to‐vigorous intensity PA (MVPA) and step count were calculated. PA was compared between participants with and without depressive symptoms by carrying out analysis of covariance and multivariable logistic regression analysis adjusted for all covariates by using propensity scores. Results Depressive symptoms were present in 598 participants (19.6%). A comparison of propensity‐score adjusted PA showed that step count (5059.6 ± 53.7 vs 5003.0 ± 112.1 count/day; P = 0.652) and moderate‐to‐vigorous intensity PA duration (23.0 ± 0.4 vs 23.8 ± 0.7 min/day; P = 0.358) were not significantly different between participants with and without depressive symptoms, respectively. However, participants without depressive symptoms had a significantly higher LPA duration than those with depressive symptoms (39.4 ± 0.3 vs 37.3 ± 0.7 min/day, respectively; P < 0.01). Conclusions The present results suggest that individuals with lower LPA have a higher risk of depressive symptoms. These findings imply that PA recommendations, especially for older adults, should emphasize LPA, which appears to be especially effective at preventing depressive symptoms.