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New study exploring impact of exercise in treating depression in teenagers launched

Published: 22 January 2020

NIHR-funded researchers have launched a new five year study aiming to find out whether exercise is an effective treatment for young people with depression and whether it is good value for money for the NHS. 

The £2.27 million research trial, is led by the University of Hertforshire in collaboration with the Universities of Bedfordshire and East Anglia, and various NHS Mental Health Trusts and County Sports Partnerships..

The READY Trial (randomised trial of energetic activity for depression in young people) was commissioned in response to the NIHR call: Physical exercise for depression in adolescents. It begins with an initial trial with young people in the East of England region, followed by a nationwide research study involving more than 1,000 young people aged 13 to 17 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. The team will collect information from participants at the start, and at 14, 26, and 52 weeks. This will include questionnaires on depression, quality of life, self-esteem, service use, session attendance and changes in physical activity. 

Researchers say the findings have the potential to provide definitive evidence of the clinical and cost effectiveness of the intervention for the treatment of depression in young people.

Co-lead researcher Dr Daksha Trivedi, Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire, said: “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 1,000 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.”

The study is funded by The NIHR’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme.

More information on the study is available on the NIHR Funding Awards Website 

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