A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2018 | Number 4, Volume 32

Children with ASD have poorer cardiovascular fitness than other kids

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have reduced cardiovascular fitness compared to neurotypical controls, a new study reports, and the difference does not appear to be due solely to lower physical activity. 

In the study, Véronique-Aurélie Bricout and colleagues analyzed data collected from 20 male children with high-functioning ASD and 20 neurotypical controls. Children with cardiovascular problems, respiratory problems, comorbid diagnoses such as epilepsy, or medical treatments that could affect metabolism were excluded. 

The researchers used a VO2max test to determine participants’ maximum rate of oxygen uptake during exercise of increasing intensity. This test is used to measure a person’s endurance during prolonged exercise. In addition, they measured the children’s physical activity over a one-week period using accelerometers and performed separate tests to measure flexibility, muscular strength, and explosive power of the legs when jumping. 

The researchers report that the children with ASD had lower scores on the VO2max test than controls and had lower effort duration, maximal speed, and treadmill slope. In addition, they exhibited poorer flexibility, muscular strength, and explosive power in the motor skills tests. While children with ASD tend to be less active than neurotypical children in general, the ASD group in this study was as physically active as the controls. 

The researchers conclude, “These results suggest that children with ASD are at greater risk for poor aerobic and muscular fitness in adulthood than their unaffected peers, especially as this study involved fit and physically active ASD children. As lower physical fitness is a reliable indicator for poor health outcomes, this study provides an important argument for the systematic implementation of physical activity programs for children with ASD.”


“Reduced cardiorespiratory capacity in children with autism spectrum disorders,” VéroniqueAurélie Bricout, Marion Pace, Léa Dumortier, Flavie Baillieul, Anne Favre-Juvin, and Michel Guinot, Journal of Clinical Medicine, October 16, 2018 (free online). Address: Léa Dumortier, [email protected].