The benefits of exercise for children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome:
- decreased repetitive behaviors, such as rocking, hand flapping or tapping
- less aggressive behavior
- increased on-task attention
- improved academic performance
- better physical coordination
- improved motor skills
Helps Maintain Weight
In the United States, approximately 15 percent of children are overweight, however, in children with autism, this increases to 19 percent and 36 percent of children with autism are at risk of becoming overweight.
Social Benefits to Exercise
Sports offer children social opportunities. Team sports should be carefully considered as not all children with autism are prepared for the social environment of a team sport. Other sports, such as swimming and track, may offer the benefit of being part of a team but with emphasis more on individual performance.
Decrease in Repetitive Behaviors
One study looked at children with autism who participated in running and swimming and found a decrease in repetitive behaviors after 60 minutes of swimming. According to Autism Speaks, this may be because swimming itself involves repetitive behaviors and it might decrease the need for those behaviors outside of the pool. Aerobic exercise and running have also been found to decrease these types of behaviors.
Difficulty with motor skills may be one reason that children with autism do not like to participate in physical activity. They may also find it difficult to plan an exercise program or may avoid team sports or even playing outdoors with other children. For some, sensory sensitivities may make exercise uncomfortable or painful.
Go to HealthCentral.com for some ways parents can help their children become more active.