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Background - Previous studies have shown that choice and self-initiated behavior changes are important for increasing intrinsic motivation and physical activity (PA), however, little of this research has focused on underserved adolescents.

Purpose - This study examined the effects of a 4-week student-centered intervention on increasing PA in underserved adolescents.

Methods - Twenty-eight students in the intervention school were matched (on race, percentage on free or reduced-price lunch program, gender, and age) with 20 students from another school who served as the comparison group (30 girls, 18 boys; ages 10-12 years; 83% African American; 83% on free or reduced-price lunch). The student-centered intervention was consistent with self-determination (motivation) theory and social cognitive theory in that it emphasized increasing intrinsic motivation and behavioral skills for PA. Intervention adolescents took ownership in selecting a variety of PA activities in which to participate, and they generated coping strategies for making effective PA behavior changes.

Results - Intervention participants showed greater increases in accelerometer estimates of time spent in moderate PA, moderate-to-vigorous PA, and vigorous PA from baseline to Week 4 of the intervention than the comparison group. Intervention participants also showed greater increases in PA motivation and positive self-concept for PA than comparison adolescents.

Conclusions - This study provides preliminary evidence that increasing adolescent involvement and choice of activities may be important in developing future PA interventions for underserved adolescents.

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