Top 5 Adaptive Fitness Exercises for Autism

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 54 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This disorder is rampant in all socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups.


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Due to the growing number of autistic children, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and staying fit can become challenging. Autistic children are more likely to have gross motor imbalances, and there are fewer fitness programs specifically designed to suit their needs.


In order to rectify physical imbalances, here is a list of the top 5 adaptive fitness exercises for autism. You can find several personal trainers that will help you but since not all autistic children and young adults can afford expensive corrective therapies, adaptive training at home can help. These adaptive exercises are designed to improve movement and mental ability, thus, improving the quality of life.


What are the Adaptive Fitness Exercises for Autism?


While it can be challenging to introduce a new activity for children and adults with the autistic spectrum, autism exercises are vital for their health. The following are the top 5 adaptive fitness exercises for autism that greatly benefit their health and well-being.


1. Scramble

This exercise is famous for promoting autism fitness and originated from the IYCA Founder Brian Grasso. It is a fantastic warm-up autism exercise that can boost body movements and balance. This adaptive training also helps to sharpen listening skills, recognize cues, and move with coordination.


Start by lying on your stomach on a soft, even surface. For your comfort, you can also use a yoga mat.  Slowly turn into a quadruped position by placing your hands and knees on the floor. The third position is quickly bending your knees and then jumping up.


You can do this autism exercise with an instructor who can give you cues. Doing this will help you concentrate on listening and the task on hand while recognizing abstract cues before moving your body. Scramble is one of the top 5 adaptive fitness exercises for autism proven to be effective and reliable.


2. Bear Crawls

This autism exercise is fantastic and a great help to promote proper body awareness. It can stabilize the shoulders, strengthen the trunk, and improve motor planning.


To do this, start with a quadruped position. Place your knees and hands firmly on the floor. After that, slowly bend your legs and start walking using your feet and hands to cross the area and move around. Do not turn your hands into fists. Your fingers must be spread evenly on the floor while your palms should not lose contact with the floor.

Trainers or parents can assist the child by guiding from their hips and prompting whenever necessary. You can execute bear crawl backwards, forwards and laterally.


Once you get comfortable, you can slowly increase the speed and change directions.


3.    Mirror Exercises

Autistic children are more likely to have difficulty socializing and responding to their environment. Hence, mirror exercises are great for encouraging the child to copy what the other person is doing. This adaptive training improves the coordination between the brain and the body, increases awareness, and allows them to be comfortable socializing with other people.


Stand and face your partner with your hands firmly placed by your side. Now, your partner will start making slow circles using their arms. Mimic the same movement.


Once you are comfortable with the first, simple movements, your partner will proceed to complex movements. Copy the exact movement in such a way that you are looking at yourself in front of a mirror. For instance, if your partner is making a flap using their left arm, you also push a flap using your right arm.
Lightly touching hands can give you the feedback you need while doing this activity. Your partner may use other parts of the body, such as head and legs. This autism exercise should last for at least three minutes.


4. Medical Ball Slams

Autistic children are most likely to suffer from short-term memory. Hence, adaptive training such as medical ball slams that can develop their memory is excellent. It stimulates the brain centers, strengthens the core, and improves balance. This autism exercise is also a great way to socialize.


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You start by standing in a marked position. Raise the ball over your head, and then throw it towards your waiting partner. Ensure that it produces a slam by throwing the ball into the floor using as much force as you can. You can hold the ball between your legs then slowly scoop it forward to throw. You can also jump or do whatever you like as long as it can exert more force.

autistic boy enjoying adaptive exercise

5. Arm Circles

Children with autism require feedback to the body, and the best way to do that is by executing movements that are observable in autistic children. It helps to control repetitive behavior such as arm flapping.


Arm circles are one of the top 5 adaptive fitness exercises for autism and excellent upper-body training. It strengthens the body and improves flexibility. Best of all, anyone can do arm circles without extra equipment.


Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be placed firmly by your side. Then, slowly extend your arms to the side of your shoulder height. Once you are comfortable, start making circles using your hands but keep your hands straight. Over time, you can make the circles bigger with each rotation to stimulate movement from your shoulders. Repeat the movement for at least 20 times before moving in the opposite direction.


Final Thoughts


Autism shouldn’t be a hindrance to staying fit and healthy. This disorder can cause movement impairments, and an inactive lifestyle will only deteriorate such incapabilities. The top 5 adaptive fitness exercises for autism can promote an active, social lifestyle for them. These adaptive training can improve body movements, social skills, and life quality for children and young adults with autism.


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