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The physical activity patterns of children with autism

Megan MacDonald1*, Phil Esposito2 and Dale Ulrich2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biological & Population Health Sciences, Exercise & Sport Science Program, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA

2 Center on Physical Activity & Health in Pediatric Disabilities, School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:422  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-422

Published: 18 October 2011



Although motor deficits are gaining attention in autism research much less attention has been paid to the physical activity patterns in this group of children. The participants in this study were a group of children with autism spectrum disorder (N = 72) between the ages of 9-18 years. This cross-sectional study explored the physical activity patterns of seventy-two children with autism spectrum disorder as they aged.


Results indicated significant differences between the mean time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity and the mean time spent in sedentary activity. Older children with autism spectrum disorder are significantly more physically inactive, compared to younger children.


Physical activity programs and interventions need to address this deficit, in physical activity. Children with autism have a similar trend in physical activity patterns compared to their peers without autism; associated benefits and future research will be discussed.