Web-Based Intervention Using Behavioral Activation and Physical Activity for Adults With Depression (The eMotion Study): Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Jeffrey D. Lambert*, Colin J. Greaves, Paul Farrand, Lisa Price, Anne M. Haase, Adrian H. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
256 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Physical activity is a potentially effective treatment for depression and depressive relapse. However, promoting physical activity in people with depression is challenging. Interventions informed by theory and evidence are therefore needed to support people with depression to become more physically active. eMotion is a Web-based intervention combining behavioral activation and physical activity promotion for people in the community with symptoms of depression.

Objective: The objectives were to assess the feasibility and acceptability of delivering eMotion to people in the community with symptoms of depression and to explore outcomes.

Methods: Participants with elevated depressive symptoms were recruited from the community through various methods (eg, social media) and randomized to eMotion or a waiting list control group for 8 weeks. eMotion is an administratively supported weekly modular program that helps people use key behavior change techniques (eg, graded tasks, action planning, and self-monitoring) to re-engage in routine, pleasurable, and necessary activities, with a focus on physical activities. Feasibility data were collected that included the following: recruitment and trial retention rates; fidelity of intervention delivery, receipt, and enactment; and acceptability of the intervention and data collection procedures. Data were collected for the primary (depression) and secondary outcomes (eg, anxiety, physical activity, fidelity, and client satisfaction) at baseline and 2 months postrandomization using self-reported Web-based questionnaires and accelerometers. Delivery fidelity (logins, modules accessed, time spent) was tracked using Web usage statistics. Exploratory analyses were conducted on the primary and secondary outcomes.

Results: Of the 183 people who contacted the research team, 62 were recruited and randomized. The mean baseline score was 14.6 (SD 3.2) on the 8-item Patient Health Questionnaire depression scale (PHQ-8). Of those randomized, 52 participants provided accelerometer-recorded physical activity data at baseline that showed a median of 35.8 (interquartile range [IQR] 0.0-98.6) minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) recorded in at least 10-minute bouts per week, with only 13% (7/52) people achieving guideline levels (150 minutes of MVPA per week). In total, 81% (50/62) of participants provided follow-up data for the primary outcome (PHQ-8), but only 39% (24/62) provided follow-up accelerometer data. Within the intervention group, the median number of logins, modules accessed, and total minutes spent on eMotion was 3 (IQR 2.0-8.0), 3 (IQR 2.0-5.0), and 41.3 (IQR 18.9-90.4), respectively. Acceptability was mixed. Exploratory data analysis showed that PHQ-8 levels were lower for the intervention group than for the control group at 2 months postrandomization (adjusted mean difference −3.6, 95% CI −6.1 to −1.1).

Conclusions: It was feasible to deliver eMotion in UK communities to inactive populations. eMotion has the potential to be effective and is ready for testing in a full-scale trial. Further work is needed to improve engagement with both the intervention and data collection procedures.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03084055; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03084055 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6zoyM8UXa)
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10112
Number of pages15
Issue number7
Early online date16 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Acceptability
  • Anxiety
  • EHealth
  • Exercise
  • Feasibility
  • Mood
  • Psychological therapy


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