The findings, however, also showed that autism does not make children less fit to engage in physical activities.

Children with autism perform as well as their typical peers on fitness assessments such as body mass index, aerobic fitness levels and flexibility, the findings showed.

"The results were surprising but also encouraging because they show that children with autism are essentially on par with their peers when it comes to physical fitness activities," said Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor at Oregon State University in US.

For the study, researchers tested the fitness and physical activity levels of 17 children with autism and 12 children without autism.

Even though they were more sedentary, the children with autism lagged behind their peers on only one fitness measure, the strength test.

"More research is needed to determine why children with autism tend to be more sedentary," MacDonald pointed out.

"It may be that children with autism have fewer opportunities to participate in organized sports or physical education activities, but if that is the case, it needs to change," she added.

The study appeared in the journal Autism Research and Treatment.

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