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Pilot outcomes of an online physical activity intervention for individuals with serious mental illnesses

Gretchen Snethen, PhD, CTRS, Gena Bell Vargas, PhD, CTRS


Objective: This article describes the development and feasibility of an online physical activity (PA) intervention for individuals with serious mental illnesses (SMI), who are at greater risk for obesity and obesity-related diseases than the general population. Individuals with SMI are more likely to lead sedentary lifestyles, which is a modifiable risk factor that has been identified as an intervention area by the National Institutes of Mental Health.

Methods: Ten subjects were recruited to participate in a single group, interrupted time series design. Data (weight, body mass index, PA, and quality of life) were collected at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. Exit interviews were conducted with participants and the recreational therapist to evaluate perception and feasibility of the intervention.

Results: No significant differences were noted on outcome measures. Participants reported high satisfaction with participation and self-reported higher engagement in PA.

Conclusions and Implications for Practice: This pilot study demonstrates that an online PA intervention is both feasible and accepted by consumers with SMI and provides diverse roles for recreational therapists working in behavioral health. This study provides valuable feedback for future implementation of an online PA intervention. Recommendations include: incorporate a “readiness to change” screening tool; extend the intervention; incorporate a nutrition component; incorporate opportunities for social interaction; and integrate objective measures of PA and self-monitoring strategies.


physical activity, mental health, tele-health

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