A research team led by the University of Hertfordshire has won a £2.27 million contract from the National Institute for Health Research to investigate if exercise is a beneficial treatment for mild to moderate depression in teenagers.

The multi-disciplinary team will include health psychology and exercise researchers and practitioners from a range of organisations - including the Herts mental health NHS trust.

READY - randomised trial of energetic activity for depression in young people - will start with a trial involving teenagers in the East of England, 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 high intensity or low intensity group exercise sessions, with spending time with a group of their peers.

Co-lead researcher Doctor Daksha Trivedi, from the Centre for Research in Public Health and Community Care at Hatfield-based 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 Doctor David Wellsted, from the Centre for Health Services and Clinical Research at the university, added: "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."

Doctor Tim Clarke, clinical psychologist at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: "This is a great opportunity to explore an intervention that expands traditional offers of support for young people with low mood and could improve provision and increase access to evidence-based interventions.

"Our NHS trust is excited to be working with the University of Hertfordshire on this trial, and with young people to test this intervention."