Written by Kara. D | Accredited Exercise Physiologist, ESSAM, AES, AEP
The population of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is continuously growing worldwide, and a large amount of research on the importance of exercise for those on the spectrum. One of the key characteristics of Autism is the difficulties in social settings and finding it challenging to find appropriate ways to communicate. Over the years, there has been increasing evidence suggesting that physical activity can help promote and develop social skills.
New research suggests physical activity can help children develop important leadership, communication, empathy, and conflict resolution skills. Recent findings suggest that children who develop leadership and empathy toward others are more likely to care about their health, perhaps adopting life-long healthy behaviors that can prevent the risk of chronic diseases.
Not only can exercise provide a safe and fun environment for children to learn how to communicate more effectively, but there are also many more benefits including, but not limited to:
- Increased opportunities for interaction and communication in a positive environment;
- Learning to engage in cooperative play and learning teamwork skills;
- Improved confidence levels and self-esteem;
- Developing emotional and behavioural regulation;
- Improving fine and gross motor skills;
- Improving overall physical, emotional, and mental health;
- Improved memory and brain processing;
- Increased attention span and an increased focus at school;
- Decreased impulsivity and anxiety;
- Improve social skills;
- Improve coordination, balance, strength, endurance, and body awareness;
Turn-taking, role-playing, verbal and non-verbal communication are all social skills that group exercise can help promote. Group exercise with appropriate supervision can be highly beneficial for children on the spectrum. Providing a safe environment filled with encouragement and enjoyment, children can adopt healthy behaviours to utilize throughout their lives.