University research team to explore impact of exercise in treating depression in teenagers

22 January 2020

A research team led by the University of Hertfordshire has won a £2.27m contract from the NIHR to investigate if exercise is a beneficial treatment for mild to moderate depression in young people aged 13-17.

The multi-disciplinary research trial will include health, psychology, and exercise researchers and practitioners from the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the School of Health and Social Work at the University of Hertfordshire, Norwich Clinical Trials Unit, University of East Anglia, The Centre for Health, Wellbeing and Behaviour Change at the University of Bedfordshire, two Mental Health Trusts in Hertfordshire and Norfolk & Suffolk and the local community sports provider organisations.

The READY Trial (randomised trial of energetic activity for depression in young people) will commence with an initial trial with young people in the East of England region, which will be followed by a nationwide research study involving more than 1,000 young people starting in 2021.

The study will compare the benefit of exercise for young people living with depression participating in either a high intensity, or low intensity group exercise sessions, with spending time with a group of their peers.

Co-lead researcher Dr Daksha Trivedi, Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire, added: “We will be working closely with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and GPs to sensitively work with families and health providers to research and potentially find effective use of behavioural medicine and exercise to treat depression”

Co-lead researcher Dr David Wellsted, Centre for Health Services and Clinical Research, University of Hertfordshire, commented: “There is a gap in support and care for this particular age group. In 2018 in Hertfordshire alone over 1000 young people were referred for mental health support. Our study will explore if participation in group exercise is an effective intervention for depression, which could help communities provide support for young people experiencing these issues, as well as relieving pressure on NHS services.”

Principal Research Clinical Psychologist for the Children, Family and Young People’s Mental Health Service, Dr Tim Clarke from Norfolk commented: “This is a great opportunity to explore an intervention that expands traditional offers of support for young people with low mood and could potentially improve provision and increase access to evidence based interventions. The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are excited to be working with the University of Hertfordshire on this trial and working with local young people to test this intervention”.


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