Children With Autism Are More Sedentary Than Peers

First Posted: Sep 26, 2014 02:05 PM EDT

Recent findings published in the journal Autism Research and Treatment show that children with autism are more likely to be sedentary than their peers. Researchers found that on average, they were likely to spend 50 minutes less a day involved in moderate physical activity and 70 minutes more each day sitting.

"These kids, compared to their peers, are similarly fit," said lead study author Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences, in a news release. "That's really exciting, because it means those underlying fitness abilities are there."

For the study, researchers examined 29 children--some with Autism and some without. Researchers tested the fitness and physical activity levels of 17 children with autism and 12 children without autism. The fitness assessments, conducted in the Movement Studies in Disability Lab at OSU, included a 20-meter, multi-stage shuttle run to measure aerobic fitness; a sit-and-reach test to measure flexibility and a strength test to measure handgrip strength; as well as height, weight and body mass index measurements.

Though children with autism were likely to be more sedentary than their peers, the study results were encouraging because this was only true via one fitness measure: the strength test. The results were particularly surprising as they showed that children with autism are essentially on par with their peers for this exception.

"That's really important for parents and teachers to understand, because it opens the door for them to participate in so many activities," she concluded. 

Though more research is needed to determine if children with autism are more sedentary, researchers have found that children with autism often have fewer opportunities to participate in organized sports of physical education activities.

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