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Physical activities can boost the mental health of children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

NDDs: Physical Activity Boosts Mental Health For Neurodivergent Children

According to a new systematic review published in JAMA Pediatrics, it was revealed that physi­cal activity interventions among children and adolescents with various neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) were associ­ated with significant benefits to overall mental health.

These interventions could serve as an alternative, evi­dence-based approach to improve mental health, including psycho­logical well-being, internalizing and externalizing problems, and cognitive function.

According to the study au­thors, NDDs “represent a new diagnostic category for a wide range of neurological and psy­chiatric disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spec­trum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability, specific learning dis­order, communication disorders, and motor disorders.”

Children affected by these NDDs are encouraged to be brought together in real-life treatment, though physical ac­tivity has only been examined in children and adolescents “with certain types of NDDs,” the in­vestigators wrote.

Thus, the investigative team sought to examine the associa­tion of physical activity interven­tion with overall mental health in children and adolescents with NDDs.

Non-randomised studies and randomized clinical trials that investigated physical activi­ty-induced effects of mental health in children and adoles­cents aged five to 17 years who were diagnosed with NDDs were included. A pair of independent reviewers assessed and selected the studies.

Using Hedges g, random mul­tilevel meta-analysis was per­formed, with data extraction and risk-of-bias assessment con­ducted by multiple reviewers. If there were more than three ef­fect sizes, the pooled effect sizes of subtopics that fell under each mental health subgroup would be calculated.

Overall, analysis of several moderators “showed that type of (NDD) did not modify the associ­ations between physical activity and overall mental health or its subgroups,” the study investiga­tors revealed.

Physical activity could serve as an alternative or adjunctive, evidence-based approach to boost overall mental health, the study authors concluded. Findings sug­gest that children and adolescents with NDDs “may be grouped to­gether when performing physi­cal activity interventions, which were confirmed to be beneficial to overall mental health and its subgroups in this new diagnos­tic population, but that physical activity interventions should be tailored when targeting different mental health domains.”