5 Best Exercises for Kids with Autism | Start Them NOW

Last Update on October 25, 2023 : Published on December 13, 2020
5 Best Exercises for Kids with Autism

Did you know 79% of children with autism have movement impairments?

Did you know 19% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are classified as overweight?

Did you know 26% of kids with autism are at risk of being overweight?

These are some alarming facts about children with Autism Spectrum Disorder which directs parents and caregivers to focus on other important treatment measures than therapy. The treatment that we are talking about is Exercise! Exercise is recently found as a treatment for autistic kids to safeguard their physical and mental health. While on one hand exercise helps manage the weight among kids with autism on the other hand it is found to be useful in developing motor and social skills.

Also Read: Daily Exercises To Boost Energy During Your Busy Schedule

Is Exercise Helpful For Kids With Autism

Multiple studies have time and again shown that exercise helps kids with autism in different ways. Therefore, it is suggested that exercise should be made a part of the lifestyle of kids with autism. Below we are suggesting some research findings that will help you understand the importance of exercise for autistic kids.

  • New research found that kids with autism who exercise regularly report decreased autism traits and enhanced parent-perceived quality of life.
  • Exercise in children with autism is found to be better engaged in the environment, enjoy better health, and promote weight loss.
  • Studies have shown that more than 20 minutes is beneficial for kids with autism. Exercise is found to reduce behavioral traits like hyperactivity and aggression.
  • Increased responsiveness and accuracy has also been seen among kids with autism who exercise regularly.
  • Motor and social skills improvement has also been seen among kids with autism who exercise.
  • As autism is related to obesity, which further results in ill physical health it is found that exercise can help in maintaining a healthy balance in life.

A Guideline To Start Exercise For Kids With Autism

  • While learning anything new the kid with autism has to be provided with a calm and supportive environment.
  • Make sure that you start small. First, start with exercising for 10 minutes at least and eventually move to 20 minutes.
  • Provide them with positive reinforcement like- “You are doing a great job!” “You are doing amazing!”
  • You can use non-verbal cues to praise them. You may use gestures like- smiling, clapping, nodding on the right moves, and more.
  • Keep giving them cues and guide them throughout the exercise.
  • Participate with them in the activities to help them and motivate them.
  • Set a routine and abide by it. Also, reinforce them for the same.
  • Consult your kids’ doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Hydrate the child before and after the exercise.
  • Keep experimenting with different kinds of exercises and focus on what interests the kids.

Best Exercises For Kids With Autism

Here are some of the best exercises for kids that are proven to be aligned with the research findings given above:

1. Mirror Exercises

You can also view this exercise as imitating or mimicking the other person. Herein, a child learns to break the shackles of interacting with others and their environment (which otherwise goes missing in autism). But, instead of looking at the mirror and imitating, you become the mirror for the child.

Step-by-step Guide:

  • Stand with your hands by your side. Face towards the child.
  • Make small movements for your child and pursue them to repeat as you do.
  • Start with small movements like moving your shoulders up and down and eventually move towards the complex ones.
  • After the warm-up session starts with the real practice.
  • Now ask the child to lift his right hand up while you pick your left one (mimicking like a mirror).
  • You can repeat the same for the legs, trunk, and neck.
  • Continue this activity for at least a minute and repeat it 3-5 times.
  • To see even better results do give the child feedback by lightly touching hands and passing a smile.

The benefit of this Exercise for Kids with Autism

Through mimicking other persons the child learns to be more aware of himself, develops necessary social skills, and increases coordination.

2. Arm Circles

A research study found that replacing the movements of autism with other similar movements provides important and needed feedback to the body. That is why arm circles are often suggested to kids with autism. Along with this, it is a great exercise to build upper body strength.

Step-by-step Guide:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Have your arms resting by your side.
  • Slowly extend arms out of the side at shoulder height.
  • Next, start making small circles with your hands (keeping the arms straight).
  • Eventually, start making the circles bigger and continue creating the movement.
  • First practice it in the clockwise direction 20 times then, repeat it in the anti-clockwise direction.

The benefit of this Exercise for Kids with Autism

Often kids with autism show repetitive behavior like flapping or clapping their hands. To reduce these repetitive behaviors and improve the flexibility and strength of the body this exercise is found useful for kids with autism.

3. Your Visual Guide:

 Bear Crawls

This exercise is the most light-hearted, fun, and creative one in this list of exercises for autistic kids.

Step-by-step Guide:

  • Get on all your fours. Such that the hands are under shoulders and knees are under shoulder and knees under hip.
  • Now walk forward using your fours across the floor (for 10-15 feet).
  • Next, move backward in the same position.
  • You can experiment with distance, speed, and direction as and when the child becomes comfortable with the same.

The benefit of this Exercise for Kids with Autism: This exercise for autistic kids is beneficial in improving coordination, motor skills, and developing body awareness.

4. Your Visual Guide

Star Jumps

Jumping includes our full-body, it is a great exercise to develop cardiovascular strength, legs and core strength, and body awareness. Plus, it fills the child with happiness. So if you are happy and you know it, jump in the air!!!

Step-by-step Guide:

  • Stand on the floor, with your knees bent slightly (like squat), and arms tucked in towards the chest.
  • Now on the count of 3 jump up from the squatting position, extending your arms and legs wide open. Making your body look like the symbol X.
  • After landing on the floor, get back in the same position and repeat it for 20 times.

The Benefit of this Exercise for Kids with Autism: This exercise strengthens the entire body of the kid and helps them develop body awareness.

5. Your Visual Guide

Medicine Ball Slams

For this you need equipment, that is, medicine balls (which are easily available online and in gym equipment shops). It increases the core strength and improves the coordination in kids.

Step-by-step Guide:

  • Hold a medicine ball in your hand and stand straight.
  • Raise the ball over your head with your arms straight.
  • Next, slam the ball down on the ground with all the force that you have.
  • Then just bend your knees and pick the ball.
  • Repeat it for 20 times.

The benefit of this Exercise for Kids with Autism: It might come to us as a surprise, but through this exercise, brain areas that stimulate short-term memory among kids with autism.

6. Your Visual Guide

7. Bonus Content: Yoga Poses For Kids With Autism

Along with physical exercise, you can also add another embodiment technique to maximize therapy outcomes and minimize the negative impact of autism. This embodiment technique is YOGA. Below we are suggesting you 4 best yoga poses are found to bring relief in the signs of autistic kids.

  • Tree Pose
  • Warrior Pose
  • Lion Breath.
  • Cat/Cow Pose.
  • Downward Facing Dog Pose.

8. Useful Videos On Exercise For Kids With Autism

Autism in Children: Starting an Exercise Program

Autism in Children: Exercises to Calm the Body & Improve Coordination

Autism in Children: Exercises to Help Calm the Body

9. Useful Books on Exercises For Kids With Autism

The Autism Fitness Handbook: An Exercise Program to Boost Body Image, Motor Skills, Posture, and Confidence in Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

While more than 70 percent of kids with autism face some of the other movement impairment and while 35 percent are at the risk of being overweight, making exercise a part of their lifestyle. It will definitely give one or the other a positive impact on the signs of autism in kids.

If you know someone with autism do share this write-up with them and their parents. Help them bring important lifestyle changes that will enhance their overall well-being.

More power to you…

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.


  1. janny

    Yes, I'll share this blog to those parents who need to read this.

  2. Emma Barr
    Emma Barr

    Arm Circles is one of kids favorite exercise and my niece loves doing it.

  3. mariya jonsan
    mariya jonsan

    These are the best exercises for kids and i definitely share with my friends.

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