The impact of lifestyle Physical Activity Counselling in IN-PATients with major depressive disorders on physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, depression, and cardiovascular health risk markers: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Trials. 2019 Jun 20;20(1):367. doi: 10.1186/s13063-019-3468-3.


Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a widespread and burdensome psychiatric issue. Physical activity counselling may increase lifestyle physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness in this specific and particularly vulnerable population, which often suffers from both mental and physical health problems. Therefore, this study will examine the impact of a lifestyle physical activity counselling intervention on physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, depression, and cardiovascular health risk markers among in-patients diagnosed with MDD compared to controls. Secondary purposes are to examine the acceptability and perceived usefulness of the intervention among these patients, to find out whether the effectiveness of the intervention is moderated by genetic factors, and to compare baseline values with an age- and gender-matched group of healthy controls.

Methods: The study is designed as a multi-centric two-arm randomized clinical trial including an intervention group and a placebo control group, allocation concealment, single-blinding, and intention-to-treat analysis. Participants (N = 334) will be continuously recruited from four clinics specialized in the treatment of MDD. The intervention builds on a standardized, theory-based, low-cost lifestyle physical activity counselling programme, which was specifically designed for an in-patient rehabilitation setting. The placebo control condition consists of general instructions about health-enhancing physical activity. Data assessments will take place 2-3 weeks after admission to in-patient treatment (baseline), and 6 weeks (post) and 12 months (follow-up) after discharge from in-patient treatment. The primary outcome is objectively assessed physical activity at follow-up.

Discussion: Because regular physical activity has proven to be an important predictor of long-term response and remission in patients with major depression, we believe that our planned study may lay important groundwork by showing how individually tailored lifestyle physical activity counselling can be integrated into given clinical structures. Improving physical activity may have important implications for tackling metabolic and cardiovascular disease and increasing mood and cognitive functioning in this at-risk population, hence limiting the future burden of multiple chronic conditions. Increased physical activity may also reduce the likelihood of future depressive episodes. By moving towards the primary prevention of chronic physical conditions, much can be done to enhance the quality and quantity of life of people with MDD.

Trial registration: ISRCTN, ISRCTN10469580 . Registered on 3 September 2018.

Keywords: Acceptability; Biomarkers; Cardiorespiratory fitness; Cardiovascular risk markers; Counselling; Depression; Exercise; In-patients; Physical activity; Psychiatry; Serotonin transporter polymorphic promoter region.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Counseling*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / psychology
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Young Adult