Posts Tagged fit

The Importance of Fitness for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Monday, March 4th, 2013 | Permalink

Physical activity was easy when they were young …

… But physical activity is not just for children. Health guidelines recommend 60 minutes per day of physical activity for teens. Recent figures show that 80% of teens don’t meet those recommendations. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with unfavorable metabolic profiles. Teen television viewing has increased by 2.5% per year totaling 4 hours each day. TV watching has also been associated with poor eating habits. Unfortunately, turning off the television may not be enough to impact healthy lifestyle behaviors, especially for a teen with Autism (ASD). Unusual diets, psychotropic medications, and motor planning difficulties may add additional risk factors for weight gain and inactivity. Post secondary teens may not have the routine activity programs that middle/high school provided. Fitness is not just about weight management. Fitness for a teen with ASD can help reduce the risk of developing adult diseases later in life.  A lifestyle that includes physical activity can prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Fitness for a teen with ASD may not be as easy as a drop-off at a local health club or fitness center. Fitness for a teen with ASD may be challenging because of apraxia, poor sensory regulation, or diminished self-management skills. These, plus low motivation, limited initiation skills, decreased attention, and on task behaviors can impact opportunities for a teen with ASD. Physical activity can be fun and simple, especially when creative parents get involved. Park at the top of a hill and walk down to have a picnic, see a favorite view, or to chase the ball that accidently fell out of the car and rolled in the direction of the hill. When it’s time to leave, a brisk walk up the hill will alert, regulate, and provide aerobic exercise opportunity.

Fitness for a teen with ASD is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Let’s provide opportunities that include physical activity. Park the car and walk. After all, physical activity has been shown to improve bone health, lower the risk for breast and colon cancer, and reduce stress. It’s time to model some positive lifestyle behaviors and to protect yourself and your teen or young adult with ASD from disease and disability. Have fun and stay healthy!

by Sheila Orta, MS, OTR/L, Doctorate Candidate in Health Psychology

Contact:, 805-827-8278