For kids with autism, studies show that vigorous activity for more than 20 minutes can help decrease stereotypical behaviors, hyperactivity, and aggression. Exercise not only helps children with autism better engage in the environment, but it also helps promote weight loss and leads to better overall health.
Full-body exercises are best for kids with autism to increase coordination, strength, endurance, and body awareness. Here are five exercises to try.
Bear crawls help develop body awareness, improve coordination and motor planning, and build strength in the trunk and upper body.
Start by kneeling on all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
Medicine ball slams
Throwing weighted objects like medicine balls can increase core strength and balance and help improve coordination. It may also have therapeutic benefits and can stimulate brain centers responsible for short-term memory.
Jumping tasks are a great full-body exercises that help improve cardiovascular endurance, strengthen legs and the core, and increase body awareness. Star jumps can be performed anywhere and can be done one at a time or in multiple repetitions.
In a study published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, the authors found that movements similar to those exhibited by those with autism may help provide needed feedback to the body. This may reduce repetitive behaviors such as arm flapping or clapping. Arm circles are a great upper-body exercise that helps increase flexibility and strength in the shoulders and back and can be done anywhere with no equipment.
Autism is typically marked by difficulty interacting with others or the environment. Mirror exercises encourage the child to mimic what another person is doing, which can increase coordination, body awareness, and social skills.