Assessing the clinical & neural outcomes in depressed youth randomized to one of two intensities of aerobic exercise

This study is recruiting participants to examine the effects of aerobic exercise (“cardio”) on clinical symptoms, cognitive functioning (i.e. attention & memory) and brain activity in transitional aged youth (TAY: aged 16-24 years) with depression. Current treatment options for TAY are often limited by undesirable side effects and/or restricted accessibility, demonstrating a need for alternative treatment options. Aerobic exercise has been shown to be beneficial for some individuals. However, the optimal level of exercise needed to see clinical benefits remains unclear, particularly in youth and young adults. This study will assess the effects of moderate vs. high intensity aerobic exercise, performed 3 times a week for 12 weeks under supervised conditions, on symptoms of depression, cognitive functioning and brain function. Brain function will be assessed by way of brain electrical activity (called EEG) and brain imaging (using fMRI) to better understand the neural underpinnings related to outcomes.

Age range

16-24 years of age


Males and females 

Individuals are eligible if they

  • Are currently experiencing depression;
  • Are free of pharmacotherapy (i.e. antidepressant medication) for  >5 weeks;
  • Are not currently engaging in regular moderate or vigorous intensity exercise  

Individuals are not eligible if they

  • Have a primary mental health disorder that is not depression;
  • Have current or lifetime history of serious medical or neurological conditions; 
  • Have had head trauma and/or loss of consciousness for >5min; 
  • Are currently taking psychoactive drugs (occasional use of anti-anxiety medication permitted);
  • Are regular users of nicotine products; 
  • Currently pregnant or breastfeeding;

Location of study 

The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research, affiliated with the University of Ottawa
1145 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON 

Recruitment via

  • Self-Referral (by participant) 
  • Internal Referral (by ROMHC staff) 
  • External Referral (by doctors or other mental health specialist outside of ROMHC) 

Principal Investigator

Natalia Jaworska, PhD 


Justin Piché 
+1 (613) 722-6521 ext. 6094

*This study is currently recruiting participants