Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders


Article in Press


17 pp.


Clinical anxiety is a common comorbidity in autistic people. Due to the prevalence of anxiety in the autism population and the adverse effects it causes, there is a critical need to develop effective interventions which address anxiety symptoms for autistic people. Therefore, the purpose of this systematic review was to examine the effectiveness of the use of physical activity as an intervention to reduce anxiety in autistic people. Three databases PubMed, PsychInfo, and Cochrane RCTs, were searched utilizing key terms. PRISMA systematic search procedures identified 44 studies meeting predetermined inclusion criteria. Participant characteristics, the type of physical activity performed, the nature of the physical activity program/delivery, anxiety-related outcomes, and research methodology was evaluated for each study. Each paper included was appraised and scored for risk of bias using Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions risk of bias tool. Titles and abstracts of 44 articles were reviewed and 8 articles met inclusion criteria which evaluated interventions. Evidence from 8 studies suggests that yoga, a community-based football program, an app-assisted walking program, group exercise programs, and horseback riding interventions reduced anxiety for autistic people. The studies included in this systematic review provide strong-to-moderate evidence that physical activity can reduce anxiety for autistic children and adults. However, additional research is needed to identify which mode of physical activity is most beneficial for anxiety reduction. Further, future research should evaluate frequency, duration, and intensity and their effects on anxiety for autistic people.


© The Authors 2024.

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0000-0003-4519-3347 (Samulski), 0000-0001-8699-8446 (Laverdure)

Original Publication Citation

Riis, K., Samulski, B., Neely, K. A., & Laverdure, P. (2024). Physical activity for anxiety for autistic people: A systematic review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Advance online publication.