Herts Research: Exploring the Impact of Exercise in treating Depression in young people

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. 

The multi-disciplinary research trial includes 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 providers in Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Luton. 

The READY Trial (randomised trial of energetic activity for depression in young people) is comparing 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 twice a week for twelve weeks. All participants will receive health education on behaviour change and motivation to continue with exercise beyond the intervention period.  

An initial feasibility phase is underway to test out recruitment of young people from the health services at the three sites, the delivery of exercise by registered exercise professionals to those who are eligible, adherence to the exercise interventions provided and measuring relevant outcomes. Due to Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing, the team is also testing out alternative ways of delivering the study online. The feasibility trial will be followed by a nationwide research study involving more than 1,000 young people starting in 2021. 

The team have focused on involving young people in the study, who have provided significant advice which has influenced the design of the study. Young people, and other key stakeholders, are continuing to provide significant input into the research process and will support dissemination and scaling up the intervention across the country, if exercise proves to be effective.   

Co-lead researcher Dr Daksha Trivedi, Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire, added: 

“We are working closely with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and GPs to research and potentially find effective use of behavioural medicine and exercise to treat depression. County Sports Partnerships are working with us to find innovative ways of delivering exercise as mental health has worsened during Covid-19 lockdown with more young people seeking help.” 

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, let alone many more who are not referred for do not seek support. Our study is exploring 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.”


University of Hertfordshire: Dr Daksha Trivedi, & Dr David Wellsted, Joint leads 

Dr Lindsay Bottoms, exercise physiologist

Dr Lee David, academic GP & visiting fellow

Dr Julia Jones, Patient & Public Involvement

Dr Silvana Mengoni, Process evaluation

Dr Neil Howlett, exercise, behaviour change, psychology

Dr Shivani Sharma, Health inequalities

Ms Solange Wyatt, Clinical Trials Support Network

Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Mirza Kah, Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Ella Beeson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist

University of East Anglia

Dr Allan Clark, Norwich Clinical Trials Unit 

Prof Andrew Jones, Public health, exercise 

Dr Jamie Murdoch, Process evaluation

Dr Erika Sims, Norwich Clinical Trials Unit

Prof Ann Marie Swart, Director Norwich Clinical Trials Unit

David Turner, Health Economics

Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust:

Dr Jonathan Wilson, Consultant psychiatrist 

Dr Tim Clarke, Research clinical psychologist

University of Bedfordshire

Dr Angel Chater, Behaviour change, psychology, exercise

East London NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Wendy O’Neill, Clinical Psychologist, Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Community sports providers

Andrew Garlick, Watford Football Club’s Community Sports and Education Trust

Stevie Bramble, Norwich City Community Sports Foundation 

Matt Corder, Health & Wellbeing Manager, Active Luton 

For more information about this study, click here.


Popular Posts