Running away from depression

06 Feb 2009 11:06:00.000

A new study into how exercise can help women overcome depression is looking for volunteers to step on to the treadmill.


The value of sport and exercise for people who are depressed is well-documented but there is evidence that gym sessions prescribed by doctors are generally regarded as unhelpful and lonely by women sufferers. Now scientists at The University of Nottingham’s School of Nursing have come up with a new type of exercise programme which they believe will be much more effective at banishing the blues.


It’s targeted at women who are in a vicious circle of depression perpetuated by low levels of physical activity, increasing health and weight problems, low self-esteem and lack of motivation. Previous research by the School of Nursing has found that the standard prescribed exercise programmes, usually gym sessions, don’t work for this group of sufferers as they are left to arrange them and carry them out alone. The researchers have now come up with a new system of ‘mentored’ exercise which they think could provide the key to breaking the cycle of depression.

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They’re looking for up to 40 women with depression living in the Nottingham area to take part in a randomised trial of both the standard exercise programme, and the new type of individually-tailored programme which includes personal motivational support from mental health professionals and exercise consultants.  The trial classes are being run for four weeks at a time, at the Rushcliffe Leisure Centre in West Bridgford, Chilwell Olympia and Bramcote leisure Centres in Beeston and The Grove Leisure Centre in Newark.    


One sufferer, Margaret from Beeston, who has already joined the research project said: “I think that the social support coupled with the exercise is a winning combination”. Another participant, Maggie from Nottingham, said: “It makes me feel energised and gives me a real boost”.


Lead researcher on the team, Elizabeth Khalil, said: “We believe this new approach could make a huge difference to the success of future prescribed exercise programmes. It gives women a chance to make a contribution to knowledge about what works for those with depression and also to get their personal opinions heard.”


Developing and evaluating an exercise programme that people with mental illness can use successfully is important because improving the physical health of people with mental illness is a national priority set by the Department of Health. The research is being funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, and has been adopted by East Midlands hub of the Mental Health Research Network, part of the National Institute for Health Research and the UK Clinical Research Network. 


Women who suffer from depression, live in Nottinghamshire and are physically able to do beginner level exercise can phone the project hotline on 0115 823 0873 to find out about volunteering for the trial, or visit the website


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.


The East Midlands Hub of the NIHR Mental Health Research Network (MHRN) is part of and funded by the National Institute for Health Research and the UK Clinical Research Network.


The MHRN’s aim is to help mental health researchers by providing support services for large-scale studies within the NHS.  It can help with the set-up and recruitment to commercial and non-commercial research projects, including clinical trials.  Each Hub is a rich collaboration of academic and clinical organisations and user and carer networks, bringing together a wide range of skills and expertise in mental health research and service provision in order to support MHRN adopted research.  The East Midlands Hub is a partnership involving the Derbyshire Mental Health Services NHS Trust, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, the University of Lincoln, and The University of Nottingham.

Story credits

Elizabeth Khalil on +44 (0)115 823 0873,

Emma Rayner - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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Published Date
Wednesday 7th October 2009

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