Investigating Levels of Physical Activity in Adults with Autism and Intellectual Disability

September 16, 2021

Does More Movement Equal a Better Quality of Life?

Adults on the spectrum with co-occurring intellectual disability have an increased risk for developing obesity, hypertension and diabetes compared to neurotypical adults. Lack of physical activity has been linked to developing these adverse health conditions. Additionally, physical inactivity is recognized as a severe public health problem and the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Recent research has shown that adults with autism experience a lower quality of life. There are only a few studies that have examined the relationship between physical activity and quality of life for adults with autism and intellectual disability. It is due to this reason that researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided to further investigate the correlation between these two situations. In their current study, the researchers recruited 38 adults with autism and intellectual disability between ages 18-55. Each subject wore an electronic activity detector for one week and then completed the Quality of Life Questionnaire. By using these tools, the relationship between average daily step and quality of life was examined. The results determined that higher average daily step count was significantly associated with a higher overall quality of life in the participants. The study noted that most of the study’s subjects were overweight and taking fewer daily steps than recommended guidelines. The authors recognize that more research is warranted to replicate their findings in larger sample sizes. However, the team advocates for more targeted intervention programs to support physical health and quality of life for adults with autism and intellectual disability. 

Original Study

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