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The purpose of this study was to explore the current levels of physical activity among youth with disabilities using meta-analysis. The search identified 11 publications including 729 participants (age 4–20 yr). The overall effect size for 11 studies was Hedges g = 0.60 (SE = 0.18, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.24, 0.96], p < .05, k = 11) using a random-effects model. The findings suggest that differences in physical activity levels between youth with and without disabilities are complex. Results indicated that youth without disabilities engaged in higher levels of physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity (g = 0.66, SE = 0.18, p < .05). However, no differences were found in light-intensity physical activity (g = −0.03, SE = 0.16, p > .85). Results also suggested that the differences in physical activity between youth with and without disabilities were affected by age (<12 yr, g = 0.83, SE = 0.24, 95% CI [0.37, 1.29], p < .05, and >13 yr, g = 0.37, SE = 0.10, 95% CI [0.18, 0.57], p < .05; Q value = 3.20, df = 1, p < .05), with children with disabilities engaging in less physical activity than children without disabilities in younger ages. Differences in physical activity level between youth with and without disabilities are functions of intensity of physical activity and age but may not be of type of disability (Q value = 0.22, df = 1, p > .6).
The authors are with the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.