Sports have a huge impact on the life of children. Besides reducing the risk of obesity, increase cardiovascular fitness, improving coordination and balance, sports can highly
improve children`s personal skills, including cooperation and social involvement.
Autism and Obesity
According to a study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) close to two-thirds of autistic children are either obese or over–weighted. The main reason for this is due to the fact that ASD children usually have aversion to different food colors and textures, which limits their diets and ends up in over-consumption of sugar. Another study found that children on the spectrum refused foods twice more than neurotypical children and that ASD children consumed more sugary drinks and snacks than children without autism.
Sedentarism in Autism
The main reason for sedentarism in ASD children is due to over–sensitivity. Children in the spectrum find it quite hard to participate in activities where bright lights, loud sounds, and tactile stimuli are required, ending up with a lack of physical activity and hence sedentarism.
Sports for Autism
Despite all challenges, ASD children can still participate in sports that can bring all the benefits of physical activity without the consequences of over stimulation.
The following sports can be great ways to improve sensory integration, physical coordination, muscle tone, and even social skills.
1.- Swimming: Water gives children a sensory input, and it can be a suitable activity to practice individually, while still being part of a team, thus it promotes social skills.
2.- Horseback Riding: Horses are used by physical, speech, and occupational therapists to reach their patients on a personal level through what is referred to as “hippotherapy.” Children with autism also benefit from equine therapy due to the motor, emotional, and sensory sensations that come with riding a horse.
3.-Cycling: Learning to ride a bike strengthens kids with special needs physically. Pedaling allows them to develop the leg muscle organization and endurance they might have lacked before. Bike riding can fine-tune motor skills and physical coordination as well as aid with balance.
4.- Martial Arts: Martial arts can be also really suitable for children within the spectrum, thanks to its high levels of organization and structure. Routine plays an important role in the lives of people with autism because it provides certainty and therefore decreases anxiety and stress.
5.-Gymnastics: By using equipment such as trampolines, balance beams, and the bars, ASD children can improve their motor skills (cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, balance, flexibility, coordination of fine movement, etc.) while building confidence and improving their social skills.
We highly encourage you to ask your family Doctor before having your child practice any of these sports. If your child is already seeing a physical therapist, they will be able to suggest exercises and activities that you can implement at home as well. Remember, its all about having fun safely!
At we believe that that having an informed parent –in an effort to empower him and his family– is the only way to for us to deliver optimal healthcare. Visit our website to find out more about our services and let us be part of your journey.