The effect of an active virtual reality gaming intervention on physical activity and mood in young men with mild to moderate depression; a randomised controlled feasibility trial to improve physical and mental wellbeing during Covid-19.


  • Fiona Hargraves NICM Health Research, Western Sydney University
  • Mike Armour 1. NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University 2. Translational Health Research Institute, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand
  • Joseph Firth The University of Manchester, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University.
  • Emma George Translational Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, School of Science and Health.
  • Freya Macmillan Translational Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, School of Science and Health.
  • Sandra Garrido The Marcs Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University, Translational Health Research Institute.
  • Kerry Sherman Macquarie University, Department of Psychology




Depression is associated with low physical activity participation, as motivation, engagement and adherence is particularly challenging for those with low mood (1). Although physical activity is shown to improve depressive symptoms (2),  often the motivation to engage in regular exercise is reduced and adherence is low (3). The emergence of virtual reality gaming has great potential to increase engagement and adherence to physical activity in young adult males, a typically hard-to-reach population with the lowest rates of help-seeking behaviour but high rates of mental illnesses (4-6). 


Aims: Our feasibility trial seeks to address the gap in evidence in achieving physical activity behaviour change in young men affected by depression using novel digital technology, to help develop innovative interventions for improving physical health and psychological well-being.

Methods: Participants are engaging in an eight-week intervention of physically active virtual reality gaming at home. Heart rate, session duration and frequency were tracked, and outcomes include feasibility (recruitment, acceptability, motivation, engagement), mood, adherence and lifestyle behaviours.

Results: Recruitment and enrolment, completed October 2021, has been successful with 13.5% of pre-screening attempts resulting in potentially eligible participants who self-booked for phone consultation and 100% of those who accurately completed the pre-screening enrolled in the trial. Waitlist control will finish mid-February 2022, results are forthcoming. 


Conclusions: This investigation will provide randomised controlled evidence and translational outcomes for feasibility, acceptability, and adherence to inform future research and practice in recommending virtual reality gaming for physical activity and mood in young men affected by depression.





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