Fitness & Autism: Building Stronger Tomorrows

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and adolescents should have 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity of physical activity every day, including daily aerobic activities (like running or jumping) and strength exercises (like climbing or doing push-ups). While the benefits of physical activity include maintaining a healthy weight, supporting bone strength, and healthy overall development, many people underestimate the cognitive and behavioral benefits. Adults and children alike, who engage in regular physical activity, experience better sleep, clearer thinking, and an enhanced ability to concentrate and focus. The same is true for children on the spectrum. 

Because children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tend to have a higher rate of physical developmental delays, including walking, and may have impaired social skills, they may not be as readily interested in physical activities as their neuro-normative peers. It is important that children on the spectrum, and otherwise, engage in regular physical activity. In today’s post, we’ll take a look at how you can encourage autistic children to get their exercise in and how it benefits their development. 

Supporting Autistic Children With Physical Fitness

Exercise is important for the well-being of all people, regardless of age or ability, and at the end of the day, autistic children are still children with a desire to run and jump and play. As with anything else in their lives, children on the spectrum may simply need adaptations and patience from their caregivers to succeed. Some ways you can support autistic children with physical activity include: 

  • Disguise exercise as play! — Tag, hopscotch, pretend to be animals. 
  • Set the example and exercise with them. 
  • Let them do it at their own pace. 
  • Never force a child to participate. 
  • Make it functional — walk the dog, etc. 
  • Break up the time and physical activity if you have to. 

Benefits of Physical Activity For Autistic Children

Beyond encouraging healthy physical development, physical activity has many benefits that can help autistic children overcome challenges associated with being on the spectrum. For instance, a strong correlation between strength training focusing on coordination and improved sensory processing. Additionally, physical activity is a great way to enhance confidence and make mind-body connections that allow children to make more purposeful movements. Hormones released during exercise can help regulate mood and help children rest more peacefully. 

  • Exercise aids in the production of melatonin, which promotes restful sleep.
  • Strengthens social and communication skills. 
  • Encourages body awareness. 
  • Is an opportunity for praise and encouragement.
  • Strengthens bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Promotes better posture and balance.

At SkyCare ABA, our therapists incorporate physical activity and exercise into therapy, well disguised as play. More than incorporating exercise into our treatment plans, we help coach and mentor parents, teachers, and caregivers on how to include recommended activities into daily life and make it fun. Together, we can help all children reach their full potential, and we believe the sky’s the limit! Reach higher with SkyCare ABA today.


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