Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 625–631 | Cite as

Brief Report: Physical Activity, Body Mass Index and Arterial Stiffness in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Preliminary Findings

  • Kevin S. Heffernan
  • Luis Columna
  • Natalie Russo
  • Beth A. Myers
  • Christine E. Ashby
  • Michael L. Norris
  • Tiago V. Barreira
Brief Report


We examined the association between physical activity (PA), body mass index (BMI) and novel measures of subclinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 15 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (mean age 7 ± 2 years, 2 girls). PA was objectively assessed using accelerometry as time spent in moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Arterial stiffness was measured via aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV) and taken as a marker of subclinical CVD risk. MVPA was inversely associated with aortic PWV (r = − 0.46, p < 0.05). BMI percentile was positively associated with aortic PWV (r = 0.61, p < 0.05). Overall findings suggest that reduced PA and higher body mass in children with ASD are associated with increased arterial stiffness which may have a detrimental impact on overall cardiovascular health.


Children Autism spectrum disorder Blood pressure Cardiovascular Physical activity Accelerometry 



Support for this study provided by the Jim and Julie Boeheim Foundation and the John P. Hussman Foundation.

Author Contributions

All authors were involved with study conceptualization, study design, study analyses, data interpretation and manuscript preparation. KSH oversaw all cardiovascular data acquisition and interpreted all cardiovascular results. TVB oversaw measurement of height, weight, and physical activity. TVB also analyzed all physical activity data and interpreted all results. NR oversaw all behavioral assessments and interpretations. LC, BAM and CEA assisted with participant recruitment. MLN assisted with study visit organization and data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants (guardians) included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin S. Heffernan
    • 1
  • Luis Columna
    • 2
  • Natalie Russo
    • 3
  • Beth A. Myers
    • 4
  • Christine E. Ashby
    • 5
  • Michael L. Norris
    • 2
  • Tiago V. Barreira
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Exercise Science, Human Performance LaboratorySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of Exercise Science, Physical EducationSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, Center for Autism and Electrophysiology LaboratorySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  4. 4.Department of Teaching and Leadership, Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher EducationSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  5. 5.Department of Teaching and Leadership, Institute on Communication and InclusionSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  6. 6.Department of Exercise Science, Human Behavior Measurement LaboratorySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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