Previous studies found that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) tend to demonstrate poor health behaviors, including unhealthy nutrition habits and low physical activity (PA) levels. Growing research suggests the PA can improve ASD-related symptoms and attenuate the mental and physical adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the stay-at-home order was put in place because of COVID-19, which negatively affected health behaviors in many individuals with ASD, including an increase in sedentary behavior and screen time and less PA participation. Prior research also has found that young adults with ASD are at a higher risk for obesity than their neurotypical counterparts. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a 12-week online physical activity intervention on exercise self-efficacy, PA enjoyment, perceived stress, and depression in young adults with ASD. A total of 10 participants (mean age: 26.5, 70% male) completed the exercise intervention, which was accessed through the Zoom platform, and occurred twice a week for 45 minutes. Results revealed a significant decrease in depression levels following the exercise intervention (p=0.03). Although not statistically significant, there was an increase in PA enjoyment following the exercise intervention (p=0.08). There were no statistical differences for exercise self-efficacy or perceived stress. These findings indicate that the remote-based exercise program may help to alleviate depressive symptoms in young adults with ASD. Given that recent research has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased depressive symptoms in young adults with ASD, the use of a remote-based exercise program may have helped to attenuate these symptoms in this population. Future research should examine larger sample sizes and compare effects of in-person vs remote-based exercise interventions.
Garcia, Jeanette M.
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
College of Medicine
Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences
Pelchat, Madisyn T., "The Psychological Benefits of a Remote Physical Activity Intervention in Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder" (2021). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 943.