Learn to Run for Anxiety Sensitivity: A Short-Term, Community-Based, Accessible Physical Activity Intervention for Women

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 University of New Brunswick
  • 2 St. Francis Xavier University
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Women, relative to men, are at particularly high risk for anxiety and depression, perhaps in part due to their heightened levels of anxiety sensitivity (AS). Physical activity (PA) is an accessible mental health intervention that may be particularly beneficial for women. Using a within-subjects pre-post mixed methods design, this study tested the acceptability, appropriateness, feasibility, and evidence-base of a community-based PA intervention for AS among women at high risk for anxiety and depression. Participants were 45 women with high AS who completed an 8-week group PA intervention. Data were collected via self-report questionnaires, interviews, and recruitment, participation, and retention rates. Results suggest the intervention is acceptable, appropriate, and feasible. Interviews reveal high intervention satisfaction and perceived benefits beyond AS reduction. There was a relatively high attrition rate that suggests room for improvement. The intervention significantly reduced AS, as well as panic, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and depression symptoms. In the context of the preliminary nature of this study, results suggest the use of community-delivered, group-based PA as a mental health intervention strategy for women is worth further exploration. There is potential for collaboration between the health system, PA delivery professionals, and community organizations to improve access to care.

Olthuis, DeWolfe, Connell, and Wright are with the Department of Psychology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Watt and Sevigny are with the Department of Psychology, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. DeWolfe is now at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Wright is now at University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Olthuis (j.olthuis@unb.ca) is corresponding author.
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