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People with mental illness are more likely to suffer physical health problems than comparable populations who do not have mental illness. There is evidence to suggest that exercise, as well has having obvious physical benefits, also has positive effects on mental health. There is a distinct paucity of research testing its effects on young people seeking help for mental health issues. Additionally, it is generally found that compliance with prescribed exercise programmes is low. As such, encouraging young people to exercise at levels recommended by national guidelines may be unrealistic considering their struggle with mental health difficulties. It is proposed that an exercise intervention tailored to young people's preferred intensity may improve mental health outcomes, overall quality of life, and reduce exercise attrition rates.
A sequential mixed methods design will be utilised to assess the effectiveness of an individually tailored exercise programme on the mental health outcomes of young people with depression. The mixed methods design incorporates a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT), focus groups and interviews and an economic evaluation. Participants: 158 young people (14-17 years) recruited from primary care and voluntary services randomly allocated to either the intervention group or control group. Intervention group: Participants will undertake a 12 week exercise programme of 12 × 60 minutes of preferred intensity aerobic exercise receiving motivational coaching and support throughout. Participants will also be invited to attend focus groups and 1-1 interviews following completion of the exercise programme to illicit potential barriers facilitators to participation. Control group: Participants will receive treatment as usual. Primary Outcome measure: Depression using the Children's Depression Inventory 2 (CDI-2). Secondary Outcome measures: Quality of Life (EQ-5D), physical fitness (Borg RPE scale, heart rate), incidents of self-harm, treatment received and compliance with treatment, and the cost effectiveness of the intervention. Outcome measures will be taken at baseline, post intervention and 6 month follow up.
The results of this study will inform policy makers of the effectiveness of preferred intensity exercise on the mental health outcomes of young people with depression, the acceptability of such an intervention to this population and its cost effectiveness.