The prevalence of mental health disorders among college students is rising and the increasing rates of anxiety and depression have important societal implications. Physical activity has been proposed as an adjuvant to traditional treatment approaches (i.e. psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy), and the internet is a potentially useful means of delivering physical activity information to the college-aged population. This randomized pilot trial examined the effects of an internet-based physical activity intervention on physical activity, self-efficacy, depression, and anxiety in college students (n = 47) receiving mental health counseling. Physical activity, depression, anxiety, exercise self-efficacy, and barriers self-efficacy were assessed at baseline and post-intervention. There was a significant time effect for physical activity, with both groups increasing their physical activity levels across the 10-week intervention but with a larger increase in the intervention condition (d = 0.68) than the control condition (d = 0.05). Exercise and barriers self-efficacy declined across the intervention, but more so in the control than intervention condition. Effects on depression and anxiety were nonsignificant. Finally, correlation analyses showed increases in physical activity were associated with increases in exercise self-efficacy (r = 0.62) and barriers self-efficacy (r = 0.63) and decreases in depression (r = -0.44) in the intervention condition, but not in the control condition. These results suggest that an internet-delivered physical activity intervention may be a promising approach to promoting physical activity among college students undergoing mental health counseling.
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