Feasibility of a physical activity intervention for children and adolescents with anxiety and depression

Kodal, Arne and Muirhead, Fiona and Reilly, John and Wergeland, Gro Janne H. and Thorsen, Paul Joachim Bloch and Bovim, Lars Peder Vatshelle and Bircow Elgen, Irene (2024) Feasibility of a physical activity intervention for children and adolescents with anxiety and depression. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 10 (1). 49. ISSN 2055-5784 (https://doi.org/10.1186/s40814-024-01466-8)

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Background Physical activity is identified as a key modifiable factor towards good short- and long-term mental health and has shown positive effects on anxiety and depression in children and adolescents. However, physical activity-based interventions are not a part of standard mental health care and evidence on the effect of such interventions is still lacking. A transdiagnostic, physical activity-based intervention was developed as a supplement to routine clinical care for youth in specialized child and adolescent mental health services. Methods /design. The feasibility of the physical activity intervention (Confident, Active, and Happy Youth) was evaluated in an open-label study by assessing the recruitment process, acceptability, intervention suitability, contentment, and preliminary intervention effects in the form of youth and parent-rated anxiety and depressive symptoms. Physical activity levels were objectively measured using Actigraphâ„¢ physical activity sensors, and progression to a definitive study was evaluated in accordance with a priori criteria. Results In total 21 of 25 eligible youth consented to participate, two dropped out of the intervention and 19 completed (76% of eligible participants). The retention rate among consenting participants was 89% and mean attendance to sessions was 83%. The suitability of the intervention was rated as good by the youth and their parents, and intervention contentment was rated high. Changes in youth and parent-rated symptom measures following the intervention were negligible, except for parent-rated anxiety symptoms assessed at 10-month follow-up. Accelerometer data indicated lower levels of moderate to vigorous activity during sessions than intended. No adverse effects were noted. Conclusion This feasibility study met the pre-determined progression criteria to a definitive study. Thus, a larger trial with longer follow-up should be conducted to explore the effect of the intervention. Trial registration ClnicalTrials.gov, NCT05049759. Retrospectively registered, 20.09.2021.