Comparison of Physical Activity Between Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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  • 1 School of Health & Kinesiology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE, USA
  • | 2 Department of Health & Human Performance, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA
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Lower levels of physical activity (PA) are often observed among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to children without ASD; however, some studies have demonstrated few to no PA differences between the two groups. The purpose of this systematic review with meta-analysis was to compare the differences in PA between children (2–18 years) with and without ASD. An exhaustive search of five online databases was completed, and 31 studies met the inclusion criteria. A pooled random-effects Hedges’s g model was used to determine differences in PA between children with and without ASD. Children with ASD were found to be significantly less physically active than children without ASD (Δ = −0.62, p < .001). Subgroup analyses revealed significant moderate to large differences in PA by intensity level, age, setting, and measurement methods. Future studies are needed to further explore the underlying mechanisms associated with lower levels of PA among children with ASD.

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