Does Fitness Training Help Kids with Autism?
If you are a parent, teacher, or caregiver of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you may have heard about the benefits of physical activity for this population. But what exactly are these benefits, and how can you help your child get more exercise? In this blog post, we will explore some of the research findings on fitness training and autism, and provide some practical tips on how to encourage your child to be more physically active.
What is fitness training?
Fitness training is any type of exercise that improves one or more aspects of physical fitness, such as cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Fitness training can include activities such as running, cycling, swimming, dancing, martial arts, yoga, and many others. Fitness training can be done individually or in groups, indoors or outdoors, and with or without equipment.
Why is fitness training important for kids with autism?
Fitness training is important for kids with autism for several reasons. First of all, fitness training can improve their physical health and well-being. Many children with autism are at risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions due to sedentary lifestyles and poor dietary habits. Fitness training can help prevent or reduce these risks by burning calories, improving metabolism, lowering blood pressure, and enhancing immune function.
Secondly, fitness training can improve their behavioral and emotional functioning. Studies have shown that physical activity can reduce stereotypical behaviors, hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, and depression in children with autism . Fitness training can also increase self-esteem, self-confidence, self-regulation, and positive mood in this population . Fitness training can provide a healthy outlet for stress relief and emotional expression.
Thirdly, fitness training can improve their social and cognitive functioning. Physical activity can enhance social skills, communication skills, and peer relationships in children with autism . Fitness training can also improve attention span, memory, problem-solving skills, and academic performance in this population . Fitness training can stimulate brain development and neural plasticity.
How can you help your child get more fitness training?
There are many ways to help your child get more fitness training. Here are some tips to get you started:
– Assess your child’s interests and preferences. Find out what types of physical activities your child enjoys or would like to try. You can also ask your child’s teacher or therapist for suggestions based on their observations and assessments.
– Choose activities that are appropriate for your child’s age and ability level. Make sure the activities are safe, fun, and challenging for your child. You can also modify or adapt the activities to suit your child’s needs and goals.
– Provide structure and support. Set a regular schedule for fitness training and stick to it. Provide clear instructions and feedback to your child. Use visual aids, timers, rewards, and praise to motivate your child. You can also join your child in the activities or enlist the help of siblings or friends.
– Vary the activities and settings. To prevent boredom and burnout, try different types of fitness training and switch between indoor and outdoor environments. You can also incorporate music, games, stories, or themes to make the activities more engaging and meaningful for your child.
– Monitor your child’s progress and outcomes. Keep track of how often and how long your child engages in fitness training. Also observe how your child responds to the activities in terms of physical, behavioral, emotional, social, and cognitive changes. You can use logs, charts, graphs, or apps to record and visualize the data.
Fitness training is a valuable intervention for kids with autism that can improve their quality of life in many ways. By following these tips, you can help your child get more exercise and reap the benefits of physical activity.
 Healy S., Nacario A., Braithwaite R.E., Hopper C. The effect of physical activity interventions on youth with autism spectrum disorder: A meta-analysis. Autism Res 2018; 11: 818–833.
 Lang R., Koegel L.K., Ashbaugh K., Regester A., Ence W., Smith W. Physical exercise and individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Res Autism Spectr Disord 2010; 4: 565–576.
 Sowa M., Meulenbroek R. Effects of physical exercise on autism spectrum disorders: A meta-analysis. Res Autism Spectr Disord 2012; 6: 46–57.
 Oriel K.N., George C.L., Peckus R., Semon A. The effects of aerobic exercise on academic engagement in young children with autism spectrum disorder. Pediatr Phys Ther 2011; 23: 187–193.
header image: https://symmetry.physio/