AbstractRegular participation in physical activity (PA) is associated with several adaptive physical and mental health outcomes across the lifespan. However, children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs: e.g., cerebral palsy (CP), developmental coordination disorder (DCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD)) engage in less PA than their typically developing peers. Although several reviews have been conducted examining the effects of PA on mental health outcomes in typically developing samples, reviews among NDDs remain non-existent. The purpose of this study was to conduct the first review of the effects of PA, exercise, and sport on mental health outcomes in children and adolescents (0-18 years) with NDDs. Mental health outcomes included anxiety, depression, self-esteem/concept, and quality of life. We searched 4 databases (Ovid Medline (R), Embase, PsycINFO, and SPORTDiscus) and identified 4200 possible records, for which 285 full-text articles were assessed for eligibility. 63 studies were included in the synthesis: 22 randomized controlled trials, 25 experimental non-randomized, 15 cross-sectional, and 1 cohort. The majority of the studies included children and adolescents with CP (n=27), followed by DCD (n=10), ADHD (n=10), and ASD (n=5). Findings are consistent with typically developing populations and generally showed that participation in PA, exercise, or sport improves various mental health outcomes among children and adolescents with NDDs. As mental health issues among children and adolescents with NDDs are most likely exacerbated, additional experimental research targeting specific interventions (i.e., motor coordination training, cognitive-behavioural therapy) is warranted.
Acknowledgments: This study was supported by a CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship and ParticipACTION