Increasing Strength and Flexibility of Adults Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and an Intellectual Disability through a Strength and Conditioning Program
Objectives: To assess the impact of a 12-week APEX program on heart rate, blood pressure, flexibility, and isometric strength in adults with ASD and an ID.
Methods: Fourteen adults with ASD and an ID (age range = 18-62 years; 2 females; IQ scores from previous clinical assessment = 20 to 70) participated in an APEX program twice per week for twelve weeks. Each APEX session was 90-minutes in length and consisted of cardiovascular training on a stationary bike, strength training using weight machines and free weights, and sports and games. All participants completed fitness testing pre-, mid-, and post-program which included: (1) resting heart rate and blood pressure, (2) the sit and reach test as a measure flexibility, and (3) a measure of isometric strength for the upper and lower body.
Results: Significant improvements in upper body strength of the right (F[1,10] = 5.058, p = 0.049, ω2 = 0.25) and left bicep (F[1,10] = 8.109, p = 0.017, ω2 = 0.37) were found from pre- (right bicep: M = 21.61 lb.; left bicep: M = 20.62 lb.) to post-testing (right bicep: M = 28.83 lb.; left bicep: M = 29.82 lb.). Significant increases were also found from pre- (M = 10.72 cm) to post-testing (M = 16.63 cm) for flexibility (F[1,11] = 5.690, p = 0.036, ω2 = 0.27). No significant changes were found for resting heart rate, systolic or diastolic blood pressure, or lower body strength (p > 0.05).
Conclusions: Twelve weeks of APEX programming provided a significant increase in upper body strength, as well as flexibility in adults diagnosed with ASD and an ID. While the remaining fitness measures did not experience significant changes, the observed improvement in lower body strength (right quadricep: 18% increase, ω2 = 0.16) has potential to yield practical health benefits for participants. Therefore, an APEX program focused on strength and conditioning is a worthwhile service option for adults with ASD and an ID as it elicits improvements in measures of fitness, which may translate into improved outcomes in adulthood.
See more of: Interventions - Non-pharmacologic - School-Age, Adolescent, Adult