Autism Exercise Programs: How can exercise play a crucial role for children with Autism?

People diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may display symptoms in 3 key areas, i.e. deficiencies in social interaction, communication skills and motor performance. Children with ASD are usually less able to interact with the world as other children do. 

Autism and physical activity: how can exercise help?

Exercise and physical activity can help improve the negative health implications of physical inactivity associated with having ASD, and can also have an effect on some autism-related symptoms.

Children with ASD have a greater risk of developing chronic health conditions due to having a less active lifestyle, compared with typically developing children. Some of the conditions that they may be more at risk of developing include heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Exercise can also reduce the stereotypical behavioural patterns of children with ASD. Positive effects on communication skills, academic engagement, and sensory skills has been seen in children with ASD after a structured period of exercise. However, it is important to note that people with ASD tend to benefit more from individual exercise vs group exercise.

Research has shown that exercise interventions led to a 37% improvement in symptoms of ASD, specifically behavioural and academic improvements. There has been evidence of improvements in both verbal and non-verbal social communication skills.

The health benefits of exercise can improve the quality of living for children and adolescence with ASD.

An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can assist in the planning and delivery of an exercise program to improve physical activity participation, limit sedentary behaviour, and improve community engagement.

Exercises for high functioning autism: what type of exercise interventions?

  • Cardio exercise and strength training
  • Swimming and water play for children with large sensory needs
  • Fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping, throwing, catching, and skipping.

If the individual has a very limited exercise background, it is encouraged to start with 5-10 minutes of activity, for a couple of days per week. As the person develops a regular routine with activity, the bouts of activity can increase to up to 30-60 minutes per day, for at least 3 days per week. Any activity is better than none. The main idea is to provide the individual with the space to engage in movement that they enjoy and that they can stick to for a sustainable period.

If you wanted to know more about how exercise can help individuals with ASD please refer to this easy to understand factsheet.

Our Accredited Exercise Physiologists Hadi and Winona can assist in creating an Autism-friendly exercise program to help enhance physical activity levels. They have the clinical skills to tailor each training plan to the child’s preference while making it fun and playful. Our health practitioners also work within the NDIS scheme to help support individuals living with a physical or cognitive impairment.  


Effects of physical exercise on autism spectrum disorders: A meta-analysis, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Elsevier. Available at:

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