Why autism should.

Jan 18, 2024

 by Ryan Webb

Autism and Exercise

At first glance, autism and exercise may not seem to go hand in hand. Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and specifically children with ASD, have difficulty in social interactions and can have trouble communicating with those around them. That being said, a traditional gym, workout class, or personal trainer may struggle to work with them or understand how to ensure that they can thrive in a training environment. All Inclusive Health is different. Julie Joffrion, owner and head trainer at All Inclusive Health, has spent nearly two decades working with clients with both physical and cognitive disabilities. In fact, she even has a B.A. in Special Education and a Masters in Education in Severe and Profound Physical and Mental Disabilities. Julie’s leadership propelled our fitness studio forward and made it the premier location for inclusive training in New Orleans.


Finding A Personal Trainer For Clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Clients with Autism Spectrum Disord (ASD) can benefit immensely from a workout program that is specifically tailored to their unique mental, physical, and emotional needs. Exercise can be extremely useful for clients with ASD and can provide excellent opportunities to practice environmental processing and self-regulation. Working out with a trainer also offers an opportunity to socialize that doesn’t prioritize verbal interactions, and also helps to combat depression.


Working with a personal trainer comes with immense advantages for clients with ASD. Even small modifications to exercises can make physical activity something rewarding, enjoyable, and straightforward. Sensory differences caused by autism or ASD influence how individuals experience, interpret, and respond to environmental stimuli. These differences can result in various sensitivities to sensory input and can affect coordination, speech and language ability, focus, executive functioning, motor skills, and energy level. Your personal trainer will develop a routine that supports your needs and abilities surrounding tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive stimulation to create a routine that is structured, sustainable, and fun.


Other Benefits of Exercise for Those with ASD

According to Autism Speaks, exercise can have far-reaching benefits for those with ASD. Dr. Sean Healy states that “Overall, we found that physical activity programs for youth with autism produced moderate to large benefits in a variety of important areas. These include improving motor skills, skill-related fitness, social functioning, and muscular strength and endurance.” Many individuals with ASD have lower fitness skills compared to their peers. Because of their disorder, many also have trouble joining traditional sports teams or being a part of regularly scheduled games and events. Specifically for children, working with a trained fitness instructor can break them out of this shell and give them a healthy outlet for exercise. Trainers can help them work on their balance and mobility skills by strengthening critical muscles that may not get the most use on a daily basis.


Getting Started

Sometimes, getting started with training is harder than it seems. Convincing a child with ASD to venture off and try new things can be a difficult task to overcome. Dr. Healy offers a handful of tips for getting your child more interested in physical fitness. He suggests to:

  1. Start Small – Exercise works best for those starting out when it is incorporated into daily routines. If you start your child off with too much exercise, they can see it as a punishment or chore rather than a slight change in lifestyle.


  2. Build Motor Skills – Before you talk to your trainer about lifting any weights or doing any circuits, cover some of the basics first. Because those with ASD may be a bit behind physically, it’s best to work on simple motor skills first, such as balance and coordination.


  3. Sample Different Types of Activities – Don’t just wait until your personal training session to encourage your child to exercise. Exercise can be done inside or outside of a gym, and it doesn’t necessarily require intricate equipment.


  4. Be a role model – Children with ASD frequently look to their parents and caretakers as role models. If they see that you take exercise seriously, they may be more inclined to follow along.