Depressed Adolescents Treated with Exercise (DATE): A pilot randomized controlled trial to test feasibility and establish preliminary effect sizes

Ment Health Phys Act. 2013 Jun;6(2):10.1016/j.mhpa.2013.06.006. doi: 10.1016/j.mhpa.2013.06.006.


The Depressed Adolescents Treated with Exercise (DATE) study evaluated a standardized aerobic exercise protocol to treat nonmedicated adolescents that met DSM-IV-TR criteria for major depressive disorder. From an initial screen of 90 individuals, 30 adolescents aged 12-18 years were randomized to either vigorous exercise (EXER) (>12 kg/kcal/week [KKW]) or a control stretching (STRETCH) activity (< 4 KKW) for 12 weeks. The primary outcome measure was the blinded clinician rating of the Children's Depression Rating Scale - Revised (CDRS-R) to assess depression severity and Actical (KKW) accelerometry 24hr/7days a week to assess energy expenditure and adherence. Follow-up evaluations occurred at weeks 26 and 52. The EXER group averaged 77% adherence and the STRETCH group 81% for meeting weekly target goals for the 12 week intervention based on weekly sessions completed and meeting KKW requirements. There was a significant increase in overall weekly KKW expenditures (p < .001) for both groups with the EXER group doubling the STRETCH group in weekly energy expenditure. Depressive symptoms were significantly reduced from baseline for both groups with the EXER group improving more rapidly than STRETCH after six weeks (p < .016) and nine weeks (p < .001). Both groups continued to improve such that there were no group differences after 12 weeks (p = .07). By week 12, the exercise group had a 100% response rate (86% remission), whereas the stretch group response rate was 67% (50% remission) (p = .02). Both groups had improvements in multiple areas of psychosocial functioning related to school and relationships with parents and peers. Anthropometry reflected decreased waist, hip and thigh measurements (p = .02), more so for females than males (p = .05), but there were no weight changes for either gender. The EXER group sustained 100% remission at week 26 and 52. The STRETCH group had 80% response and 70% remission rates at week 26 and by week 52 only one had not fully responded. The study provides support for the use of exercise as a non-medication intervention for adolescents with major depressive disorders when good adherence and energy expenditure (KKW) are achieved.

Keywords: Actigraphy; Adherence; Adolescents; Depression; Exercise.