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
- 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.
- Being out in the fresh air.
- Getting out in the sun.
- Seeing the countryside.
- 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.
- 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.
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.