Autism and Exercise: 4 Benefits of Physical Activity for Children With Autism
About 1 in every 57 children is on the autism spectrum.
If your child is among them, we know you want to do everything in your power to help them live a fulfilled and happy life that allows them to function at the highest level they can.
You take them to therapy, read up on autism, and ask other parents of children with autism for input. One thing you might not be as aware of? How much exercise for autism can help your child.
Curious about autism and exercise, and what the latter can do to improve your child’s overall quality of life now and in the future?
If so, then you’ve come to the right place.
Read on to learn how physical exercise can benefit your child.
1. Exercise Improves Coordination
Many young children with autism struggle with coordination and both gross and fine motor skills.
Children on the spectrum are about six months behind their peers when it comes to gross motor skill development, and up to a year behind classmates regarding fine motor skills.
Many physical activities autistic children will no doubt enjoy can help to improve their coordination and overall motor skills. Exercise helps your child to learn more about their overall body awareness. It can also help to improve their balance.
Starting the physical exercise as early as possible can help to treat these issues before they become more severe.
Movements like bear crawls and even exercises where they mirror what other people are doing are both excellent options.
2. Improved Behavioral Skills
Another reason why you should encourage your child to try sports?
Because it offers serious behavioral benefits in children with autism.
If your child seems to have trouble engaging in an activity, frequently gets off task, harms themselves or becomes aggressive towards others, exercise can help to encourage better behavior. This is likely due to the release of dopamine and increase in blood flow that exercises stimulate.
Working out can also help to reduce the amount of self-stimulatory behaviors in your child — when physical activity is made a regular part of a child’s routine.
An especially interesting connection between autism and exercise?
Research shows that children will experience the behavioral benefits of physical activity for hours after the exercise has ended.
The best thing you can do is to try to find a form of physical activity that your child truly enjoys. This may take a bit of trial and error, but you’ll both have lots of fun in the process.
If your child is especially shy or non-verbal, you may want to try the exercise with them at first. This will help to make them feel much more comfortable.
Even just half an hour of physical activity a day can make a huge difference.
3. Increased Social Skills
You want to improve your child’s motor skills and behavioral issues. But you also want them to have an active and healthy social life.
Physical activity can help with this, as well.
Many children may feel anxious about speaking to their peers. The necessity of communication in team-based sports helps children on the spectrum to overcome these nerves.
Sports can work with their teammates towards a specific goal, and they can even help them to learn how to read social cues.
Plus, your child may or may not always be invited to engage with their classmates as often as they’d like to.
Yes, they may be shy, but sometimes, they could also feel isolated from those around them. Sports activities help your child to improve their confidence, make new friends, and be included in the activity.
Your child may also benefit from specialized care, especially if their behavioral issues are in rapid decline. Places like Blue Sprig Autism provide excellent care, and can even help your child to learn how to engage with their teammates in a whole new way.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
As the parent of an autistic child, you likely already know about the connection between autism and potential weight gain.
This is because these children are often more attracted to stationary and even screen-based activity, but also because of a higher presence of fat hormones in the body.
Unfortunately, children on the spectrum are about five times more likely to be obese than their peers are.
Exercise can’t make up for the importance of a healthy diet and conversations surrounding eating well in your household. But it can help your child get the physical activity they need to stay fit. Of course, it can also help them to strengthen their muscles and increase their flexibility.
Plus, the sooner you get started with exercise, the greater the benefits to the child will be. It’s also an excellent way to ensure that, from an early age, working out becomes a part of your child’s everyday routine.
Exercise can also help to spark a love of healthy food and even following nutritious recipes in your child.
Autism and Exercise: Wrapping Up
As you’ve learned from this post, there are so many ways in which autism and exercise can benefit from one another.
Looking for more advice on how you can help your child to lose weight the healthy way? Want to access an arsenal of delicious and nutritious recipes to encourage your child to improve their relationship with food?
Need advice on which kinds of sports your child should try?
We’ve got you covered.
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