BACKGROUND: Exercise has been recognized as a coping mechanism that can help college students cope with daily stressors. Recent studies highlight a need to explore potential differences in physical and behavioral health outcomes based on indoor versus outdoor exercise preferences. Additionally, previous studies did not focus on the mental health aspects of college students in relation to their exercise environment preferences. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between mental health and exercise preferences for college students. METHODS: A 19-question survey will be emailed to all enrolled students at a university in the southeast United States. A follow-up reminder email will be sent one week later. In total, the survey will be open for a one month window. The survey will include the following measures: (a) Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire will be included to measure one week exercise volume and to classify participants as active, moderately active, or insufficiently active, (b) Positive Mental Health Scale will be used to record self-identified positive mental health, (c) five items will ask about exercise behaviors and environment (indoor, outdoor, or both) preferences, (d) seven items will ask questions about race, gender identity, age, student major, grade point average, student athlete status, and student classification. Participant characteristics will be described using means, standard deviations, and frequencies. If sufficient power is reached (sample of N = 176), we will use two ANCOVAs to examine Positive Mental Health scale differences between indoor and outdoor exercisers, while controlling for (1) student athlete status and (2) weekly physical activity status, separately. We will also use Chi-squared analysis to examine group differences in exercise environment preferences for student athlete status and weekly physical activity status. ANTICIPATED RESULTS: Previous studies suggest additional research is needed to make strong conclusions about the relationship between exercise environment and mental health. However, there is evidence in support of outdoor exercise and positive influences on mental health. As such, we hypothesize that after controlling for student athlete status and exercise volume, students who prefer outdoor exercise will have higher Positive Mental Health Scale scores.

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