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Raising the pulse to beat teenage blues (4/21/2012)

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Tags:
depression, teenagers, exercise

A unique study to test the effectiveness of personally tailored exercise programs on young people with depression has been launched by researchers at The University of Nottingham.

The power of exercise in helping people with depression is well-documented in studies looking into adult populations but not in young people. Also, at present the majority of teenagers find it hard to stick to the standard programme of self-motivated exercise they are prescribed by GPs or health care professionals.

Now researchers in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy are to test a new specially designed exercise program which will be personally tailored to half of the young people who take part as volunteers in the trial.

A researcher on the trial, Tim Carter, said: "Previous work has found that young people with depression or low mood don't do much exercise and therefore are not getting the potential physical or mental health benefits. A recent study has shown that exercising at individuals' preferred intensity is more likely to have positive effects on depression levels and keep people interested. We feel that by providing motivational support in a friendly, stimulating exercise class we can potentially improve young people's self esteem, physical fitness, quality of life and, most importantly, lift their mood."

The HEALTH project (Help Enable Active Lifestyles Towards Health) is a two and a half year study funded by the National Institute of Health Research. The researchers are looking for 158 young people between 14 and 17 years with depression or low mood who have been referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County NHS Trusts.

Half the participants will be randomly assigned to a control group receiving standard NHS mental health care as usual and the other half will be assigned to the intervention group. They will also get standard NHS mental health care but in addition will be invited to a regular supervised exercise programme consisting of circuit training in small groups of young volunteers.

There will be 12 one-hour sessions in total, two per week for six weeks at local leisure centres in Nottinghamshire. Qualified exercise therapists will offer motivational coaching and make sure each young person can exercise at an appropriate and comfortable level.

The participants will fill in a questionnaire before starting the trial which will record their baseline measurements including depression symptoms according to the Children's Depression Inventory, quality of life and demographic questions about lifestyle. After the final exercise session for the intervention group, both groups will complete a second questionnaire, and a third after six months so the effects of the treatment can be measured.

The data will be analysed by the researchers and each participant given an individual report on their case study. The research team also includes research fellow, Liz Khalil, exercise therapist, Ioannis Morres and Professor of Mental Health Nursing, Patrick Callaghan. The team hopes the results of this study will prove invaluable in future health policy in the treatment of young people with depression.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the University of Nottingham

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