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PLoS One. 2017 Feb 28;12(2):e0172482. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172482. eCollection 2017.

Physical activity, sedentary behavior and their correlates in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A systematic review.

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Deakin University, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
Early Start Research Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.
Deakin University, Deakin Child Study Centre, School of Psychology, Burwood, Victoria, Australia.
Deakin University, School of Health and Social Development, Burwood, Victoria, Australia.
University of Melbourne, Department of Paediatrics, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.
Deakin University, Centre of Social and Early Emotional Development, School of Psychology, Burwood, Victoria, Australia.


Autism Spectrum Disorder affects up to 2.5% of children and is associated with harmful health outcomes (e.g. obesity). Low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary behaviors may contribute to harmful health outcomes. To systematically review the prevalence and correlates of physical activity and sedentary behaviors in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, electronic databases (PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus, EMBASE, Medline) were searched from inception to November 2015. The review was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42014013849). Peer-reviewed, English language studies were included. Two reviewers screened potentially relevant articles. Outcomes of interest were physical activity and sedentary behaviour levels and their potential correlates. Data were collected and analysed in 2015. Of 35 included studies, 15 reported physical activity prevalence, 10 reported physical activity correlates, 18 reported sedentary behavior prevalence, and 10 reported sedentary behavior correlates. Estimates of children's physical activity (34-166 mins/day, average 86 mins/day) and sedentary behavior (126-558 mins/day in screen time, average 271 mins/day; 428-750 mins/day in total sedentary behavior, average 479 mins/day) varied across studies. Age was consistently inversely associated, and sex inconsistently associated with physical activity. Age and sex were inconsistently associated with sedentary behavior. Sample sizes were small. All but one of the studies were classified as having high risk of bias. Few correlates have been reported in sufficient studies to provide overall estimates of associations. Potential correlates in the physical environment remain largely unexamined. This review highlights varying levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research is needed to consistently identify the correlates of these behaviors. There is a critical need for interventions to support healthy levels of these behaviors.

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