Exercise and Autism

Today, Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwick, PymbleBalmain and Neutral Bay  discuss the benefits of exercise in people living with Autism.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is often presented with varying comorbidities that results in impairments in social communication and interaction, sensory abnormalities, repetitive behaviours and varying levels of intellectual disability. People diagnosed with ASD often also present with other psychiatric or neurological disorders concurrently, and often include hyperactivity, attention disorders (such as Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD), anxiety, depression and epilepsy.


Studies of ASD have sought to find a concrete method of diagnosis through physical and biological methods. However, what research has found is that the genes that may result in the understood presentation of ASD are so broad and affect so many areas of the brain that it’s impossible to narrow it down to a single explanation. Newer research studies have looked into MRI’s and brain activity assessments through electrophysiological methods; however, research has not yet been able to identify a definitive cause behind ASD.

Genetic studies have shown that there are risk factors that may increase the likelihood of children being born with ASD, with the most common high-risk cause of ASD being a genetic component that arises from parents who are diagnosed with ASD. Other factors such as a paternal age greater than 50, maternal age greater than 40 and maternal obesity to name a few, are all factors that increase the odds of the child being born with ASD.

Figure A – Environmental risk factors for Autism (from Lord et al., 2020) 


Children and adolescents with ASD often present with low muscle tone, hypermobility and slower motor skill development, and they tend to live a more sedentary lifestyle.

When compared to other children and adolescents their own age, children with ASD have a 40% higher likelihood to be obese, which is a significant risk factor for other metabolic and chronic diseases such as heart disease and Diabetes.

Exercise is clinically proven to be effective in treating such chronic conditions, and it is also able to assist in improving the psychosocial spheres of ASD as well. Modern studies have shown that regular exercise is able to reduce stereotypically expected behavioural patterns presented in people with ASD, with significantly more improved results when administered by an Accredited Exercise Professional. The effectiveness of exercise in assisting with developing self-esteem, social and emotional regulation in ASD has become more concrete as further studies are released supporting this statement.


It is recommended that children and adolescents with ASD complete 60+ minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day, and complete activities that build muscle and strengthen bones at least 3 times per week.

As little as 20 minutes of vigorous exercise completed prior to studying can actually boost cognition and attention, as well as improve academic performance in children and adolescents with ASD. Vigorous intensity exercise is recommended over low intensity exercise as it is proven to be effective in significantly reducing levels of body fat, as well as generating better biological adaptations in glycaemic control and insulin sensitivity – two key factors in the diagnosis of Diabetes.


Our Accredited Exercise Physiologists at Longevity are trained and qualified to be able to administer personalised exercise prescription plans that are tailored to each child’s preferences. Exercise should be fun and clinically effective, and as such our practitioners are experienced in tailoring the exercise programs to meet the goals necessary to generate positive health outcomes but also allow the child to enjoy their physical activity.

Our practitioners aim to assist children and adolescents in developing a healthy positive relationship with exercise and physical activity. Whether it be a home program, or a personal program at a studio clinic or a gym, we can tailor the most effective and ideal environment for them to meet the recommended activity levels for all their needs.


If you know someone who has Autism or has a child with Autism whom you believe would benefit, contact Longevity and book in your free strategy session to see how we can help!
1300 964 002


Written by Kevin Shu



Lord, C., Brugha, T. S., Charman, T., Cusack, J., Dumas, G., Frazier, T., Jones, E., Jones, R. M., Pickles, A., State, M. W., Taylor, J. L., & Veenstra-VanderWeele, J. (2020). Autism spectrum disorder. Nature reviews. Disease primers6(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41572-019-0138-4

Tarr, C. W., Rineer-Hershey, A., & Larwin, K. (2020). The Effects of Physical Exercise on Stereotypic Behaviors in Autism: Small-n Meta-Analyses. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities35(1), 26–35. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088357619881220

Bremer, E., Crozier, M., & Lloyd, M. (2016). A systematic review of the behavioural outcomes following exercise interventions for children and youth with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 20(8), 899-915. doi: 10.1177/1362361315616002

Oriel, K., George, C., Peckus, R., & Semon, A. (2011). The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Academic Engagement in Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 23 @(2), 187-193. doi: 10.1097/pep.0b013e318218f149

Sowa, M., & Meulenbroek, R. (2012). Effects of physical exercise on Autism Spectrum Disorders: A meta-analysis. Research In Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 46-57. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2011.09.001

Paquet, A., Olliac, B., Golse, B., & Vaivre-Douret, L. (2015). Current knowledge on motor disorders in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Child Neuropsychology, 22(7), 763-794. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2015.1085501

Davis, C., Pollock, N., Waller, J., Allison, J., Dennis, B., & Bassali, R. et al. (2012). Exercise Dose and Diabetes Risk in Overweight and Obese Children. JAMA, 308(11), 1103. doi: 10.1001/2012.jama.10762

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply