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Objective. The objective of the current investigation was to examine if the effects of a group-mediated cognitive behavioural counselling plus exercise intervention were superior to the effects of a standard exercise care condition on postnatal mothers' self-regulatory efficacy (SRE), outcome expectations (OEs) and self-directed physical activity (PA).

Design. The design of the study consisted of two intervention conditions; group-mediated cognitive behavioural counselling plus exercise (GMCB) and standard exercise (SE). Each condition consisted of two phases; a 4-week supervised, centre-based intensive exercise training phase followed by a 4-week home-based phase.

Methods. Participants were 57 postnatal women randomly assigned to conditions (SE: N = 31; GMCB: N = 26). Measures of SRE and OEs were assessed prior to and following the centre-based aspect of the intervention. Physical activity was measured following the intensive exercise training phase as well as the home-based phase.

Results. GMCB participants' SRE and OEs were sustained during the intervention whereas those of SE participants declined. GMCB participants also reported significantly greater time spent engaging in self-directed PA at the conclusion of the intensive and home-based phases. Mediation analysis revealed that SRE partially mediated the relationship between intervention condition and post home-based PA as confirmed by a significant sobel test.

Conclusions. These findings suggest that a theory-based GMCB counselling plus exercise intervention is superior to the SE condition in sustaining SRE and OEs, and in promoting greater self-directed PA. SRE partially mediated the relationship between intervention condition and post home-based PA supporting the targeting of that variable for change as part of the intervention.