Depression is severely undertreated in Black men. Significant reasons for this include that traditional psychiatric treatments (i.e., psychotherapy and medication) are less acceptable to Black men, and that Black men report significant stigma regarding seeking these treatments. Depression also has major health consequences, including increased occurrence and worsening of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and even CVD mortality. We propose to address gaps in the literature and advance the field of minority men?s health by conducting the first randomized controlled trial testing the effects of strength training (i.e., weight lifting) on depression and cardiovascular health in a sample of depressed Black men. A total of 50 self-identifying Black men who meet a clinical level of depression will be randomized into a 12-week strength training (ST) program or a 12-week contact control. Both groups will meet on-site twice per week during the 12-week program, and follow-up assessments will occur at the end of the 12-weeks and at a 3-month follow-up. Blind to condition research staff will conduct assessments at baseline, end-of-treatment, and 3-month follow-up. Qualitative interviews will be conducted immediately after the 3-month follow-up to gather input on participants? experiences and preferences. The primary outcome will be depression severity (measured by interview). Secondary outcomes will be inflammatory markers and CVD indicators (e.g., blood lipids, blood pressure, waist-to-hip ratio, body composition). The overall aim of this exploratory (R21) study is to establish the feasibility, acceptability, and initial efficacy of strength training as an intervention for depression in Black men.
Specific aims are (1) To assess the feasibility and acceptability of recruitment, retention, assessment, and intervention procedures among depressed Black men, (2) To obtain preliminary evidence of efficacy in preparation for a future R01-supported randomized clinical trial, and (3) To explore potential mediators of the effect of ST on depression, including physiological (i.e., sleep quality) and psychological (i.e., self-esteem, acute changes in affect, enjoyment of exercise, physical self-concept) variables. The proposed research will lay the groundwork for a larger efficacy study of ST for Black men that will be fully powered to detect changes in both depression and CVD risk over long-term follow-up. Such a trial would be an initial step to combating major health disparities regarding CVD and treatment for depression among Black men.

Public Health Relevance

Depressive disorders account for the largest percentage of the global burden of disease and predict future cardiac disease, but remain under recognized and under treated in Black and African American men. Strength training (i.e., weight or resistance training) has shown promise for treating depression, and is a preferred form of exercise for men. The purpose of this exploratory R21 is to conduct the first randomized controlled trial testing of the efficacy of strength training for reducing depression and cardiovascular risk in depressed Black and African American men.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Social Psychology, Personality and Interpersonal Processes Study Section (SPIP)
Program Officer
Tully, Lois
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Columbia University Teachers College
Graduate Schools
New York
United States
Zip Code