It is universally known that exercise in one form or another is beneficial to everybody – both physically and psychologically. But are there any specific ways that this can work for people who have autism – something that they can take out of it alongside the universal benefits?
Exercise obviously has many physical benefits; it burns calories, and keeps people healthy and in good shape. This doesn’t apply to autistic people any more than neuro-typical people, but exercise could be especially important in the lives of those with autism. Sometimes people with autism will only eat certain foods. If these foods are not particularly healthy then obviously there will be a negative impact on that person i.e. weight gain – exercise can help to minimise that. Sometimes autistic people struggle to take care of themselves, and getting in to the routine of having a shower, and changing their clothes after exercise – something they might enjoy – can be a good way of starting them off in a habit that will become essential to them. It can also greatly improve coordination and gross motor skills, and strengthen muscles that may be weak due to dyspraxia (a condition that often goes along with autism). Generally exercise, – and being in physically better shape – makes people feel more self-confident, and better about themselves. This is just as true for autistic people as anyone else. Autistic people can often have low self-esteem due to bullying, or difficulty with social skills, and getting the boost that exercise gives them can make a huge impact in their lives.
Exercise releases chemicals that make a person feel happy, almost like a natural high. So if somebody is feeling depressed or dissatisfied with life, working out can often make them feel better. It also means that if an autistic person is having a bad day, they can at least accomplish something by having a good workout. Having something like this, which is healthy and fun, and can also completely alter a person`s mood, is undeniably positive. Also, everybody can do some level of exercise; whether somebody chooses to take up weightlifting and martial arts, cardio, or even just doing a small workout at home – there are benefits to whatever type of exercise a person does. One of the most useful types of exercise for somebody with autism is the strictly routine kind; for example; doing a specific exercise for twenty minutes, three times a week. This enables them to build a framework for their exercise each week – which they can build on – and around which they can slot other events. This must not be taken to extremes as becoming obsessed with exercise is not helpful.
The benefits listed above could apply to nearly everybody, but when taken collectively they can have a huge impact on the life of somebody with autism. Nobody should live their lives without exercising to some degree, but for people with autism especially, the impact on their physical and mental well-being in undeniable. Exercise will not completely solve the problems that can come along with autism, but it will make the autistic individual feel happier with themselves, and often that can go an incredibly long way to dealing with issues created by autism.