BackgroundCOVID-19-related confinements pose a threat to mental health. We investigated prevalence rates of symptoms of depression, generalized anxiety and insomnia in German adults. Furthermore, we explored associations of exercise behavior with disorder-specific symptoms and assessed whether specific affect regulation skills enhance the effect of exercise on symptom alleviation. MethodsCross-sectional survey-based data collected during the first lockdown is presented: 4268 adults completed questionnaires on mental health, exercise behavior and Covid-related lifestyle factors. Primary outcome was depression (PHQ-9), secondary outcomes generalized anxiety (PHQ-D) and sleep quality (PSQI). Multiple linear regression analyses were performed to examine the association of exercise behavior with the outcomes. ResultsAnalyses resulted in elevated symptoms of psychological distress (probable cases of depressive disorder: 31.2%, anxiety disorder: 7.5%, sleeping disorder: 43.0%). A change towards less exercise during the lockdown was significantly associated with higher levels of depression (t=5.269; β=0.077, p<.001), anxiety (t=3.397; β=0.055, p<.001) and insomnia (t=3.466; β=0.058; p<.001). Physical activity (PA)-related affect regulation enhanced the effect of exercise on mental health. ConclusionResults suggest a demand for measures which promote the maintenance of exercise during a pandemic and improve PA-related affect regulation to optimize effects of exercise on mental health.

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