Kids and teens with autism are spending more time each day sitting and less time engaged in physical activity, a new study finds. (Thinkstock)

Kids and teens with autism are spending more time each day sitting and less time engaged in physical activity, a new study finds. (Thinkstock)

Children with autism are far less physically active than their typically-developing peers, researchers say.

On average, kids and teens on the spectrum sit 70 minutes more each day than others their age, according to findings published this month in the journal Autism Research and Treatment.

Those with autism also spend 50 fewer minutes each day participating in moderate physical activity, researchers found.

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For the study, 17 children with autism and 12 without wore accelerometers designed to measure their movements for a week. In addition, those studied — all of whom were between that ages of 9 and 17 — participated in a range of fitness assessments to assess their strength, flexibility, aerobic abilities and body mass index.

Even though the young people with autism were less active, the researchers found that they were similarly capable in nearly all of the fitness tests.

“That’s really exciting, because it means those underlying fitness abilities are there,” said Megan MacDonald of Oregon State University who worked on the study.

MacDonald indicated that additional research is needed to understand why individuals with autism are spending more time in sedentary activities, but said that the findings offer important evidence for parents and teachers that kids on the spectrum are capable, but simply may need more opportunities to be active.

“Physical fitness and physical activity are so important for living a healthy life, and we learn those behaviors as children,” MacDonald said. “Anything we can do to help encourage children with autism to be more active is beneficial.”