Researchers say there may be a simple way to reduce challenging behaviors among those with autism and similar disorders during the school day — add in some exercise.

A new study looking at the impact of structured, aerobic exercise in kids on the spectrum and those with other behavioral disorders found that youngsters who participated in “cybercycling” at school as opposed to traditional physical education classes were far less likely to act out.

Cybercycling involves a stationary bike with a video screen that allows participants to ride various courses, play games and otherwise engage using virtual reality while participating in aerobic activity.

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For the study, researchers randomly assigned 103 students ages 7 to 16 at a therapeutic day school to participate in a seven-week cybercycling program or to participate in traditional, non-aerobic PE classes twice a week. Participants included students with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and mood disorders.

When children were participating in the cybercycling program, researchers found their odds of exhibiting poor self-regulation or being taken out of class because of behavior issues declined by as much as 51 percent, according to findings published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The positive effects were most pronounced on days when children participated in the intervention, with disruptive behaviors dropping over 70 percent, researchers said.

“Aerobic cybercycling PE shows promise for improving self-regulation and classroom functioning among children with complex behavioral health disorders,” wrote the study authors. “This school-based exercise intervention may significantly improve child behavioral health without increasing parental burden or health care costs, or disrupting academic schedules.”

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