Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 785–794 | Cite as

Physical Activity Levels, Frequency, and Type Among Adolescents with and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Heidi I. Stanish
  • Carol Curtin
  • Aviva Must
  • Sarah Phillips
  • Melissa Maslin
  • Linda G. Bandini
Original Paper


We compared time spent in moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA), type, and frequency of participation in physical activities between adolescents with ASD (n = 35) and typically developing (TD) adolescents (n = 60). Accelerometers measured MVPA and participants were interviewed about engagement in physical activities. Adolescents with ASD spent less time in MVPA compared to TD adolescents (29 min/day vs. 50 min/day, p < 0.001) and fewer met the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (14 vs. 29%, p > 0.05). Among adolescents <16 years old, those with ASD participated in fewer activities than TD adolescents (5.3 vs. 7.1 activities, p < 0.03). Walking/hiking and active video gaming were among the top activities for both groups. Findings support the need for interventions that meet the needs of youth with ASD.


Accelerometry Physical activity Youth Health Exercise Autism spectrum disorder 



The authors acknowledge the contributions of James Gleason, Charmaine Lo, Courtney Dutra, and Renee Scampini (all affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School-E.K. Shriver Center during the study) for their assistance with participant recruitment and data collection. We are grateful to participants for their time and effort associated with this project. This project was funded by the following grants: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD059100, HD059100-S1), National Institutes of Health; Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center (DK046200); and Interdisciplinary Research in Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (HD004147).

Author Contributions

HS conceived of the study and participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; CC participated in the conception and design of the study and interpretation of the data; AM participated in the design of the study and interpretation of the data; SP participated in the statistical analyses and interpretation of the data; MM participated in the coordination of the study and performed the measurement; LB conceived of the study and participated in its design and coordination. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants and a parent included in the study.

Research involving animal and human rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Exercise and Health SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Eunice Kennedy Shriver CenterUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA
  3. 3.Department of Public Health and Community MedicineTufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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