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The Top 5 Exercises for Teenagers with Autism

As a big portion of the ASD community grows out of childhood, the challenge of creating healthy living habits for teenagers with autism arises. I have to say that teenagers with autism are my favorite age group with which to do fitness activites.

Teenagers with Autism NEED Fitness Programs

And not just any fitness programs. The majority of my teenage athletes with autism missed the widespread introduction of early invervention (PT/OT, education, and behavior therapy).  Many teens with autism have tremendous difficulty communicating and limited social interaction with peers. Fitness programs for teens with ASD can not only provide a social opportunity, but can focus on improving areas of physical deficit.

Teenagers with autism often have limited strength, stability, speed, power, and coordination. This not only affects daily life skills and physical health, but self-esteem and the way indivduals “carry” themselves in public.

Fitness Programs for teenagers with autism should be general (non sports-specific) and focus on the Big 5 movement patterns; Pushing, Pulling, Bending/Squatting, Rotation, and Locomotion. Below are a few of my current favorite exercises for teenagers on the autism spectrum.

Top 6 Exercises for Teenagers with Autism

1) Sandbell Squats

Teenagers with autism MUST squat. Squatting correctly both prevents low back pain and strengthens the legs, trunk, and back. In our Autism Fitness programs we do a varitety of different squats with the Sandbells. I like switching from holding the Bell at the chest to behind the neck for different weight distribution and to correct form.

2) Double Rope Swings

Rope swings are fantastic for developing upper body power as well as strength endurance (more important for teenagers with autism than cardiovascular endurance). I love rope swings and even incorporated them into the PAC Profile as an assessment of, among other things, coordination.

3) Overhead Press (with Sandbells, Med balls, Dumbbells, or Thick Rope)

The Overhead press is important for shoulder strength and stability, and carries over (generalizes) to a great many other skills in daily life. Teenagers with autism often exhibit poor posture with shoulders that “roll” forward. You cannot simply fix this by “standing up straight.”

Including overhead presses in fitness programs for teenagers with Autism is a must.

4) Medicine Ball Scoop Throws

Scoop throws incorporate squatting, upper body power, coordination, reaction, and social interaction/partnering. Many of my teenage athletes with autism learn to squat better doing this throw.

5) Sandbell slams

I haven’t worked with a teenager on the spectrum yet who hasn’t loved slamming the Sandbells (available through repeatedly on the floor. This activity promotes, flexibility, power, and can be used in some great partner activities.

Young people with ASD  need exercise as much as any other group. Try the 5 exercises above with an individual or group of teenagers with autism.

Live Inspired,


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