Physical Activity and Mental Health during Covid-19

Last registered on June 01, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Physical Activity and Mental Health during Covid-19
Initial registration date
June 01, 2020

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 01, 2020, 4:08 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Carnegie Mellon University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of California San Diego
PI Affiliation
University of Pittsburgh
PI Affiliation
University of Pittsburgh

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
We measure physical activity, time use, and well-being in a sample of college students that we have been following since February 2020. Participants received wearable trackers that monitored their physical activity and sleep before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants also filled out surveys aimed at capturing their time use and mental health. We find substantially higher rates of depression and anxiety following the onset of the pandemic. The rise in depression is greater among students with larger changes in lifestyle during the pandemic, especially among those with greater declines in physical activity. In this study, we will attempt to increase physical activity by randomly assigning students to receive incentives to walk, and test the effect of this intervention on mental health.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Giuntella, Osea et al. 2020. "Physical Activity and Mental Health during Covid-19." AEA RCT Registry. June 01.
Experimental Details


Starting on June 1st, participants will be randomized to receive incentives to walk 10,000 steps per day over the course of 2 weeks.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Physical Activity (steps and active minutes), Depression (as measured with the CES-D scale). We will examine treatment effects by pre-intervention depression and pre-intervention change in physical activity.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Active minutes will be the total number of non-sedentary minutes as detected by the Fitbit.
We will construct a dummy variable with CES-D scores greater than15 to indicate participants at risk of depression.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
•Control: participants will wear an activity tracker (Fitbit) and fill out surveys about time use and mental health.
•Treatment: participants will wear an activity tracker (Fitbit) and will receive $5 for each day in which they complete 10,000 steps. They will fill out surveys about time use and mental health.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer, blocking on pre-intervention depression levels (in May) and pre-intervention changes in physical activity.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
103 participants in control, 102 in treatment.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Pittsburgh IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
STUDY20040104: COVID-19 and Mental Health


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials