Increasing Regular Physical Activity Participation in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Temple University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DOI: 10.18258/9575
Raised of $1,925 Goal
Funded on 12/07/17
Successfully Funded
  • $1,959
  • 101%
  • Funded
    on 12/07/17

About This Project

Why do people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) tend to be less physically active than the general population? We will examine psychosocial factors influencing physical activity participation in adults with ASD to understand components of motivation/adherence/self-efficacy to exercise and facilitators impacting exercise participation. Participants will take an on-line survey, then be randomly selected for an interview and an 8-week exercise intervention.

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What is the context of this research?

Persons with ASD display higher rates of comorbid/chronic health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and obesity when compared to the general population. A lack of sufficient daily physical activity is the primary cause of most chronic conditions. In order to engage this population in activities that benefit overall health, it is necessary to promote their participation at sufficient intensity levels for extended periods of time. A moderate intensity activity, such as walking, is a popular, accessible, and acceptable form of activity among physically inactive individuals. Short-term and long-term psychosocial outcomes, including improvements in motivation and adherence to exercise, as well as short-term and long-term physical outcomes, will be assessed in this study.

What is the significance of this project?

There is limited evidence on exercise interventions for this population. Recent research provides overwhelming evidence that adolescents with ASD do not achieve the minimum physical activity recommendations and are less physically active than typically developing youth (Little, Sideris, Ausderau, & Baranek, 2014; Stanish et al., 2015; Tyler, MacDonald, & Menear, 2014). Further, a decline in physical activity with age and high levels of sedentary behaviors has been observed (MacDonald, Esposito, & Frey, 2006; Memari, Ghaheri, Ziaee, Kordi, Hafizi, & Moshayedi, 2012; Pan & Frey, 2006). Determining barriers to exercise and encouraging people with ASD to become more physically active will enhance physical and mental health and well being.

What are the goals of the project?

The aim of this study is to understand components of motivation, adherence, and self-efficacy in exercise programs in individuals with ASD, as well as the barriers that affect exercise participation in this population. Recommendations will be developed to address the challenges this population faces and a walking intervention will be provided based on the guidelines and regulations from the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability. The ultimate goal is to provide persons with ASD with a lifestyle modification (physical activity) to enhance their physical and mental health and well being.


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Alas, no external funding is available, so I (Gabrielle Salvatore) am raising funds to assist in completing my study. Our amazing undergraduate research assistant will assist with data collection. A superlative master's student with exercise physiology expertise will conduct physical activity assessments. such as cardiovascular testing, flexibility, and basic anthropometric measures. The Fitbits are needed for physical activity tracking. The gift cards are intended as random prizes for participating in the on-line survey and then also for participation in the intervention phase of the study. The local travel is for community residents with ASD who may need assistance in using public transportation to come to Temple University for the physical fitness assessment and study instructions.

Endorsed by

This is such an important area that needs more research and awareness. I am looking forward to reading about your progress and findings once complete. I am sure you all will do an excellent job!
Much needed project with great potential contributions to the field! Can't wait to see the unfolding of your exciting work and its findings!
What an incredible and much needed addition to the field! I am very excited about what this study will find and look forward to the work this valuable team will produce.
Community participation is a medical necessity. This project is cutting edge and of critical importance. I may even try to provide a little funding support if I can figure out how to do it.

Project Timeline

IRB Approval has been received.

Month 1 (November 2017) - Recruit participants/Administer survey

Month 2 (December 2017) - Conduct Interviews, Conduct Pre-Intervention data collection, Set up activity trackers (FitBits), Baseline data collection for activity trackers

Months 3-4 (January/February 2018) - Administer Physical Activity Intervention

Month 5 (March 2018) - Post-Intervention data collection

Month 6 (April 2018) - Data analysis, evaluation, and follow-up

Nov 07, 2017

Project Launched

Nov 17, 2017

Recruit study participants

Nov 30, 2017

Administer on-line survey

Dec 15, 2017

Conduct Interviews

Dec 31, 2017

Set-up activity trackers and baseline data collection

Meet the Team

Michael Sachs
Michael Sachs
Professor, Department of Kinesiology, College of Public Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Haley Knotts
Haley Knotts
Research Assistant


Temple University
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G Salvatore
G Salvatore
Research Assistant


Temple University
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Gabrielle Salvatore
Gabrielle Salvatore
Graduate Student Researcher


Temple University
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Team Bio

The lead researcher, Gabrielle Salvatore, is a master's student in the exercise and sport psychology area in the Department of Kinesiology at Temple University. She will be superbly assisted by undergraduate research assistant Giovanna Salvatore and graduate student Haley Knotts, also a master's student in the exercise and sport psychology program. They are mentored by Michael Sachs, a long time professor in the Department of Kinesiology.

Michael Sachs

Michael Sachs is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, College of Public Health, at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. His bachelor’s degree in psychology is from Union College (NY), and he has two master’s degrees – one in general experimental psychology from Hollins College (VA) and one in counseling psychology from Loyola University (MD). He received his Ph.D. in sport psychology from Florida State University. Michael is associate editor of Psychology of Running and coeditor of Running as Therapy: An Integrated Approach, and co-wrote The Total Sports Experience for Kids: A Parents' Guide to Success in Youth Sports. He is a Co-Editor of the Directory of Graduate Programs in Applied Sport Psychology, in its 11th edition and published by AASP (the Association for Applied Sport Psychology). He has written or co-authored numerous book chapters, academic articles on various topics within exercise and sport psychology, and articles on the psychology of running in popular publications. His research interests focus upon exercise psychology, particularly motivation and adherence, excusercise, exercise addiction, and the psychology of running. Michael is a Past-President of both AASP and Division 47, the Society for Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, of the American Psychological Association (APA). He is a Certified Consultant, Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Michael enjoys exercising, particularly running and swimming, and has run two marathons.

Haley Knotts

Haley Knotts is a master's student at Temple University in the Psychology of Movement Program. She is originally from Whiteford, Maryland. She earned her bachelor's degree in exercise physiology from Slippery Rock University in 2016 and plans to apply for her PhD in the near future. Her research interests are motivation and adherence to exercise in special populations and using exercise as therapy.

G Salvatore

Giovanna Salvatore is an undergraduate student at Temple University studying psychology. She is currently interning at a social service agency where she oversees clients as a behavior consultant. Giovanna is in her junior year and hopes to eventually obtain a PhD in clinical psychology.

Gabrielle Salvatore

Gabrielle Salvatore is a graduate student at Temple University studying sport and exercise psychology. In 2016, she received her BS in Kinesiology from Temple University. She is currently applying to doctoral programs. Her research interests include exercise psychology, health promotion interventions, quality of life, and mental health.

Gabrielle is the first student from Temple University's College of Public Health to attempt crowdfunding as a way to offset the cost of her master's thesis.

Project Backers

  • 46Backers
  • 101%Funded
  • $1,959Total Donations
  • $42.59Average Donation
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