Exercise and Autism

By June 9, 2024 June 13th, 2024 ESDM
Children with autism doing exercise in ESDM group in Bondi Junction and Mascot

The Importance of Exercise for Children with Autism

Exercise is important for everyone, but it can be especially beneficial for children with autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects communication, behaviour, and social interactions. Exercise can help improve many areas of life for children with autism, including physical health, emotional well-being, and social skills. Let’s dive into why exercise is so important and explore fun ways to get children with autism moving!

Physical Health Benefits

  1. Improved Fitness: Regular exercise helps children with autism improve their overall fitness. Activities like running, jumping, and swimming strengthen their muscles and improve cardiovascular health.
  2. Better Coordination: Many children with autism have challenges with motor skills and coordination. Exercise activities that involve balancing, catching, or kicking can help them develop better coordination and motor skills.
  3. Weight Management: Children with autism can sometimes struggle with weight management. Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of obesity and related health issues.
  4. Stronger Bones: Weight-bearing exercises, such as jumping and running, help build strong bones. This is crucial for growing children to ensure healthy development.
  5. Enhanced Immune System: Regular exercise boosts the immune system, helping children with autism fight off illnesses more effectively.

Emotional and Mental Health Benefits

  1. Reduced Anxiety and Stress: Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Exercise can help reduce anxiety and stress, common issues for children with autism.
  2. Improved Mood: Regular exercise can lead to better mood and reduced irritability. Children who exercise often feel happier and more relaxed.
  3. Better Sleep: Physical activity helps regulate sleep patterns. Children with autism who engage in regular exercise tend to fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper, more restful sleep.
  4. Increased Focus and Attention: Exercise can improve concentration and focus, making it easier for children with autism to participate in school and other activities.
  5. Enhanced Self-Esteem: Achieving physical milestones and participating in group activities can boost self-esteem and confidence. Feeling strong and capable in physical activities can translate to feeling confident in other areas of life.

Social Benefits

  1. Improved Social Skills: Group sports and activities provide opportunities for children with autism to interact with peers, helping them develop social skills like taking turns, following rules, and working as part of a team.
  2. Building Friendships: Exercise activities, especially team sports, can be a great way for children with autism to make friends and feel included.
  3. Better Communication: Physical activities often require communication, whether it’s giving high-fives, calling out during a game, or asking for help. These interactions can improve verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  4. Learning Patience and Cooperation: Participating in group activities teaches children with autism about patience, cooperation, and understanding others’ perspectives, essential skills for social development.

Fun Ways to Exercise

  1. Outdoor Play: Encourage children to play outside. Activities like running, jumping rope, and playing tag are great for physical health and are a lot of fun.
  2. Swimming: Many children with autism enjoy swimming. It’s a full-body workout that improves strength and coordination while being gentle on the joints.
  3. Biking: Riding a bike is excellent exercise and helps improve balance and coordination. Start with a tricycle or a bike with training wheels and progress from there.
  4. Dance: Dancing is a fun way to get moving. Put on some music and let your child dance around the house. You can even join in and make it a family activity.
  5. Yoga: Yoga is great for flexibility, strength, and relaxation. It can also help with focus and calmness. There are many child-friendly yoga videos available online.
  6. Martial Arts: Martial arts like karate or taekwondo can be beneficial for children with autism. These activities teach discipline, focus, and respect while providing a great workout.
  7. Sports: Encourage participation in sports like soccer, basketball, or tennis. These sports improve coordination, social skills, and provide a structured environment that can be very beneficial.
  8. Hiking: Going on nature walks or hikes is a great way to exercise while enjoying the outdoors. It can also be a calming activity that reduces stress.
  9. Trampoline: Jumping on a trampoline is fun and excellent for cardiovascular health and coordination. Just make sure it’s done safely to avoid injuries.
  10. Obstacle Courses: Set up a simple obstacle course in your backyard or living room. Use pillows, cones, ropes, and other items to create a fun challenge.

Tips for Encouraging Exercise

  1. Make it Fun: The most important thing is to make exercise enjoyable. Find activities your child loves and encourage them to participate regularly.
  2. Set a Routine: Establish a regular exercise routine. Consistency helps children with autism know what to expect and makes physical activity a part of their daily lives.
  3. Be a Role Model: Children often mimic their parents. If you show enthusiasm for exercise and participate in activities together, your child is more likely to be interested.
  4. Use Visual Schedules: Visual schedules can help children with autism understand when it’s time for exercise. This reduces anxiety and helps them prepare for the activity.
  5. Reward Participation: Positive reinforcement can go a long way. Reward your child for participating in exercise activities with praise, stickers, or a favourite treat.
  6. Start Slow: If your child is not used to regular exercise, start with short, simple activities and gradually increase the duration and intensity.
  7. Adapt to Their Needs: Be mindful of your child’s unique needs and preferences. Some children with autism might be sensitive to noise or crowds, so choose activities that make them comfortable.


Exercise is incredibly beneficial for children with autism. It helps improve physical health, emotional well-being, and social skills. By making physical activity fun and engaging, parents and caregivers can help children with autism enjoy the many benefits of exercise. Whether it’s playing outside, swimming, dancing, or participating in team sports, there are plenty of ways to get moving and have fun. With patience, encouragement, and the right activities, exercise can become a positive and regular part of a child’s life.

Boost Your Child’s Exercise Abilities at OneOnOne Children’s Therapy!

Is your child with autism facing challenges in physical exercise and movement? At OneOnOne Children’s Therapy, we offer specialised occupational therapy programs at our Bondi Junction and Mascot clinics designed to enhance your child’s ability to engage in exercise, promoting their overall health and well-being.

Our experienced Occupational Therapists use tailored, fun, and engaging activities to help your child build strength, coordination, and confidence in their physical abilities. We create a supportive environment where your child can thrive and enjoy the benefits of regular exercise.

Don’t wait—take the first step towards improving your child’s physical fitness and overall health. Ring us on (02) 80657837 or schedule a consultation with us today at either our Bondi Junction or Mascot clinic and see how Occupational Therapy can make a significant difference. Together, we can help your child develop a love for physical activity and enhance their quality of life.