Research Alert

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans call for preschool-age children to be physically active throughout the day. Since children with developmental disabilities are less likely to meet this goal, adults who work with them need to make special efforts to ensure that they participate in the recommended amount of physical activity. Investigators observed children with developmental disabilities, such as autism, while in childcare centers. The children tended to be more physically active when interacting one-on-one with an adult, playing with objects like balls and acting out roles from cartoons and children’s stories. They were significantly more physically active outside as compared with inside. Outdoor settings, like playgrounds and parks, encourage physical activity because they often provide mobile toys and other children who are playing. These findings show that parents of young children with developmental disabilities and their teachers can increase physical activity by playing with them and making sure that they spend time in safe outdoor settings.