Getting into Exercise and the Benefits for Autistics

When you’re autistic/Aspergers like us, just getting through the day can be a tough challenge.  Our energy levels are constantly low.  So adding exercise to our demanding lives, would seem to be a push too far.

However exercise is so important for our: health, happiness, physique, sleep and relaxation.  Plus, and most importantly for us autistics/aspies, it increases our energy levels.

Choosing the right difficulty level

When thinking about exercise most people believe it needs to be high intensity and strenuous.  Such as running, cross fit, athletics and football.  Whilst this type of exercise is incredibly good, there are many types of low intensity exercise that are almost as good.  This type of exercise is usually more enjoyable and easier too.

Any exercise, at any pace, is better than doing nothing.  The hardest part is trying exercise for the first time.  Even walking has a great deal of positive benefits.

My experience with sport and exercise

Like many people with autism/Asperger’s, I dreaded many of the sports in school. I was bad at football and always picked last.  I was also terrible at any team sport such as hockey, volleyball and basketball.

In my early teens I started to play badminton and table tennis, which were two sports I finally enjoyed. These are ideal sports for autistics/aspies, as the level of social interaction is low.  Since most of the player’s focus, is spent on playing the game.

Around the same time my cousin, who was my best friend, started to do some weight training.  So I started doing this with him.  I enjoyed it and have been doing it on and off ever since.  Never to the level where it was an obsession, but just enough to get some of the benefits.

In my late teens I could see many of the advantages to sports from people like my sister and cousin. They seemed to have this unlimited amount of energy, and were never tired.  Where I was tired all the time.

I knew I could never join a sports team or club, as I couldn’t talk to people and was socially anxious. Instead I chose to do exercise I could do alone, which I’ve continued to do my whole life.  This includes bike riding, weight training, swimming and walking.

I’ve tried other exercise, such as joining several gyms.  I also spent several months learning martial arts (with a friend from university).  However they caused too much social anxiety, so I gave them up.

Choosing the right type of exercise

Choosing the right type of exercise, at the right level of intensity, is the most important thing we can do.  It’s the difference between us enjoying it, and looking forwards to doing again, against dreading it.  In addition, if we push ourselves too hard we can easily have an injury, which holds us back.

The best way, to find the right type of exercise, is to try many different activities.  I always start a sport off at a very low level of intensity, where it is almost too easy.  Then I’ll very gradually increase the difficulty.  By either walking, swimming or cycling for longer; or lifting slightly heavier weights.

Sports I recommend and benefits

  • Walking:
    • Being out in the fresh air, but still being alone.
    • Time to put our thoughts in order.
    • Getting out in the sun, which offers its own benefits. Such as increasing vitamin D, which is essential for our health.
    • Seeing nature, and how it changes over the seasons.
    • Being a gentle exercise, which can be done for any amount of time.
  • Cycling:
    • Being out in the fresh air.
    • Getting out in the sun.
    • Seeing the countryside.
    • Fun
    • An easy form of exercise that does not put too much pressure on the muscles and joints.
  • Weight training:
    • Helps with our physique and posture.
    • Helps with social acceptance.
    • Less likely to get bullied.
  • Swimming:
    • Fun
    • Works every muscle in the body.
    • Improves physique similar to weight training.

General Benefits to Regular Exercise

  • Having more energy. Which makes it easier for us autistics/aspies to get through everyday life.
  • If you’re a parent, having the energy to play sports with your children.
  • Better physique, so more socially accepted.
  • Health benefits that last many years, if not a lifetime. Such as a healthy heart, strong muscles, bones and joints.
  • Small changes add up to a big difference.
  • Enjoying one type of exercise leads to trying other forms of exercise.
  • Getting outdoors and seeing the world. Where many people like us with autism/Aspergers tend to spend too much time indoors.
  • Adds something new and different to life.
  • Feel better ourselves and much more confident. This confidence shows and other people are more likely to want to get to know us.
  • Being more motivated.
  • More resilient. So not quitting when things get too tough.
  • Being open to try new things.
  • Increases our happiness. After exercise, with the release of endorphins.  Plus our overall happiness levels.
  • Can increase social skills. When doing partnered or team sports.
  • Helps with relaxation and sleep, when our bodies recover.

Correct Diet

Linked into exercise is eating the right food, in the right amounts.

When starting to exercise, we tend to eat more.  To make up for the calories we use to complete the new exercise.   But once we get settled into a routine of exercise, we normally want to eat better food.  So that all the hard work and effort, exercise requires, is not wasted.

Regular exercise combined with a good diet, has to power to completely transform our lives.  Giving us the necessary strength and energy to do all the things in our lives, we often find to be too strenuous.

4 thoughts on “Getting into Exercise and the Benefits for Autistics

  • Avatar
    October 7, 2017 at 7:59 pm
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    My daughter has Asberges and loves the outdoors. She’s particularly fond of surfing, mountain biking,swimming, rock climbing, walking ect. She has just finished an out door adventures course and is now at uni doing an Animal Conversation bring up her science degree with foundation year the only prob is still and always has been her loneliness. Being alone is great sometimes but she is most of the time. She longs to find a friend at uni with whome she can speak to easily as her only friend at home has Asberges. There doesn’t appear to be an Asberges society or group where she is living. There is at home they meet once a month and for her it’s always been the place where she felt understood and not judged. Any talk places you can recommend or forums for females particular

    Reply
    • Shaun - Site Admin
      October 7, 2017 at 8:17 pm
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      Hi,

      The main forum for people like me with high function autism/asperger’s is wrong planet.net. But I had a look on the internet and the forum http://autisticwomenscollective.com looks really good for females. They have got plenty of likes on Facebook so I am sure it would be a good starting place for you and your daughter to check out. I have never used an Asperger’s type society as I don’t believe there is one in my area either, although my wife would love me to go to one as she often says it would be a good thing for me to talk to like minded people face to face.

      I am sure your daughter will make friendships in time. When I was at Uni I was lucky enough that people made the effort to seek me as a friend rather than me trying to be friends with them (as it would have been close to impossible for me to make the first move in starting a friendship with someone). She will find as time progresses she will be involved in group work and group projects where she will probably contribute the most to assignments and make friends that way. Hope everything goes well 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    May 3, 2020 at 9:47 am
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    I’m 49yo, (unofficially) diagnosed last week as ‘highly likely’ on a supervised screening test with my psychologist where I scored quite high. My whole life I’ve struggled with balance, strength, and just seem slightly clumsy and uncoordinated. Bike riding looks like fun but every time I tried I always end up in a bit of a frustrated mess. Is balance a common issue for autistics?

    You can imagine this caused me a lot of embarassment as an undiagnosed kid, and avoided doing anything with my mates that involved bikes, which was almost everything… so my social life was already doomed.

    Since tried a few times as an adult. Might manage 3 minutes here and there without falling off, but it stresses me out and start getting into meltdown territory. Do you think it’s a case if I persist long enough with learning to ride that I might “get” it, or would you suggest I just accept the way I am, and focus on other activities? I’d love to hear from other clumsy-challenged people!

    Reply
    • Shaun - Site Admin
      May 4, 2020 at 3:53 am
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      I’ve been a bit clumsy and accident prone my whole life 🙂 I’m forever walking into thing like door frames. I don’t have any trouble riding bikes though so I’m lucky in that sense.

      For all things in life I wouldn’t give up too easily and if you really want to give it a go then keep trying.

      For the past year I’ve spent much more time weight training than cycling. This is still amazing for fitness. I’ve got a foldable weight bench at home and some cast iron weights. It hardly takes up any room. So, for me, it’s an amazing alternative. I used to love swimming as well but it was expensive and the chlorine got to be a bit too much in the end for doing it regularly. I use to love walking too. You need to do that for a long period of time each session for it to have any true benefit but it was very therapeutic and still a really rewarding type of exercise.

      Hope all goes well with your diagnosis – take care 🙂

      Reply

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