The Feasibility of Measuring Heart Rate of Children with Autism During Swim Lessons and Potential Health Outcomes


  • Lisa Mische Lawson University of Kansas Medical Center
  • Caitlin Lisk
  • Jordan Carlson
  • Madeliene Priebe
  • Emma Shaver
  • Francesca Wilson



Autism, Body Mass Index, children, health promotion, physical activity, swimming, therapeutic recreation


The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of using Garmin HRM Swim and Forerunner 935XT/735XT devices to measure physical activity (PA) in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) while swimming and explore the effects of swimming on body composition and child function. Fifteen children with ASD participated in eight swim lessons. Pre- and posttest data included heart-rate, body composition, and caregiver surveys. Results indicated that the HRM and Forerunner devices were user-friendly, well tolerated by children, and provided useful data to measure heart rate and PA levels for all participants. Most participants met the level for moderate to vigorous PA suggested for typically developing children. Researchers explored results for healthy changes in body mass index (BMI) and parent’s perceptions on child health and function. This study provides exploratory evidence that swimming may improve BMI and behavior in children with ASD with recommendations for future research.

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