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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Obesity and Low Physical Activity are Problems for ASD Adolescents

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the health problems of people on the spectrum.

Stephanie M McCoy and Kristen Morgan have an article at Autism titled "Obesity, Physical Activity, and Sedentary Behaviors in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder Compared with Typically Developing Peers." The abstract:
Decreased engagement in beneficial physical activity and increased levels of sedentary behavior and unhealthy weight are a continued public health concern in adolescents. Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder may be at an increased risk compared with their typically developing peers. Weekly physical activity, sedentary behavior, and body mass index classification were compared among adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorder. Analyses included 33,865 adolescents (autism spectrum disorder, n = 1036) from the 2016–2017 National Survey of Children’s Health (United States). After adjustment for covariates, adolescents with autism spectrum disorder were found to engage in less physical activity and were more likely to be overweight and obese compared with their typically developing peers (p’s < 0.05). As parent-reported autism spectrum disorder severity increased, the adjusted odds of being overweight and obese significantly increased and physical activity participation decreased (p-for-trends < 0.001). The findings suggest there is a need for targeted programs to decrease unhealthy weight status and support physical activity opportunities for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder across the severity spectrum.
Food selectivity and medication, the article suggests, may contribute to the problem.  People with ASD may have a hard time maintaining a healthy diet because of aversions to fruits and vegetables.  Medications such as reprisperidone and aripiprazole lead to weight gain. Physical activity is also a challenge:
Engaging in physical activity and team sports (e.g. football and soccer), requires a more advanced level of motor skills. However, it has been shown that both children and adolescents with ASD have deficits in motor skills ... Furthermore, team sports and physical activities become more competitive as children get older. The competitive atmosphere may be less conducive to adolescents with ASD compared with their typically developing peers (Nicholson, Kehle, Bray, & Heest, 2011). Another aspect of physical activity and sport that may contribute to decreased participation for adolescents with ASD is the social aspect. Fewer adolescents with ASD feel that sport and exercise are good ways to make friends (68% vs 97%, p<0 .001="" 2015="" adolescents="" al.="" blockquote="" comparison="" developing="" et="" in="" tanish="" typically="" with="">