Autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that affects people of all ages and across cultures. It is believed that autism spectrum disorder can contribute to lower levels of physical activity in people with the condition. Interest in the factors mediating this relationship has increased in recent years.
To identify the barriers to and facilitators of physical activity for people with autism spectrum disorder.
ASSIA, ERIC, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Social Care Online, Web of Science, IBSS, LISA PEI, Social Services Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts and NAS Library Catalogue. Hand searching of reference lists of identified articles was also conducted.
Journal articles published in the English language from 1943 to March 2016. Journal articles were required to contain qualitative data relating to physical activity in people with autism spectrum disorder.
Seventeen studies were included in the data synthesis. Most of the barriers and facilitators were labelled as either personal, social, environmental or policy and programme related. Using physical activity to reduce social stress was also a facilitator of physical activity.
Results from this synthesis can inform interventions and policies to encourage people with autism spectrum disorder to engage in physical activity. Further qualitative research would be beneficial to developing a more accurate picture of barriers and facilitators relevant to adults with autism spectrum disorder.