Apr
05

The State of Fitness for the Autism Population

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Fitness and autism are two worlds that need to see more of one another. Sedentary lifestyles, whether you acknowledge it or not, are the cause for higher incidences of Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other lifestlye-related illnesses not only in the neurotypical but in the ASD population as well.

Fitness and Autism: The Challenges

Having autism is a big enough challenge. To compound that with a preventable disease is borderline criminal. The problem has two main components; A lack of fitness opportunities at home and in school and an over-reliance on technology for leisure activities. Fitness and autism require planning and a greater information and service exchange between professionals, educators, and parents.

How Does Functional Ability affect Fitness and Autism?

Many of the cognitively higher functioning individuals I have worked with enjoy video games and TV. These are passive activities that should occupy a small amount of time each day. Instead, they are used as reinforcers, for leisure time, and as “social activities” throughout the day.  Though technology continues to develop, our bodies have not “caught up” to the pace of our digital world. Fitness and autism need to come together for a healthier future. It also means that “my kid doesn’t like to move” can not be used as an excuse.

 

The goal of Autism Fitness has become the sharing of information and methodology with parents and professionals in the autism and fitness fields, bringing fitness and autism closer.  With the introduction of the PAC Profile earlier this year, along with the videos provided on this site and AutismFitness.com, I think we are moving in the right directon. Now, as more people discover Autism Fitness, it is a question of motivation and persistence.

For many parents, the idea of starting a fitness program, both for themselves and their child(ren) with autism can be overwhelming. It is easy to get too busy or overwhelmed, but the health issues caused by a sedentary lifestyle will not go away.  Until we are all heads floating in robotic jars, we still need to move for optimal physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being.

Fitness and Autism in the Real World

All of the research and real-world evidence shows that exercise has tremendous benefits for all young populations. Fitness for the autism population is no exception.  Having the data and information is great, but it has to be put into practice in schools and at home.  Start with some bear walks, a medicine ball toss, or bending knees. Just start.

April being Autism Awareness month, I am not sure what the future of autism looks like. I do know that if fitness does not become a regular part of every individual’s lifestyle, there will be some significant problems. Imagine a situation where 20% of the autism population was overweight enough to be at risk for cardiovascular disease. Is this the environment we want to create for this generation? Do we want to allow something completely avoidable to occur simply because Chris prefers playing 4 hours of Xbox or Playstation rather than physical activity? This is where fitness and autism need to meet.

If you read my blog regularly, I trust that you are already a practicing fitness enthusiast or at least bringing fitness into the lives of those on the autism spectrum.  I’ve spoken at far too many conferences and parent associations where anxious mothers giggle about “not exercising in years.” If you think life is difficult for your non-verbal teen now, wait until you have a debilitating heart condition. One in three women over the age of 40 will.

Not only can these issues be avoided, but by prioritizing fitness and adopting a healthier lifestyle we can optimize many areas of life. Autism Fitness will continue to provide information and services that bring fitness to the ASD population and their families.  If you are not already active, let this be your last sitting moment of the day. Fitness and autism unite!

Live Inspired,

-EC

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