Fitness Challenge: Follow-up and Follow-through
Since the first part of this article was published in the March/April issue of PSN, a study conducted out of the University of California, Davis, suggests a relationship between obesity during pregnancy and the birth of children with ASD. The author of the study, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, theorizes that overweight mothers have a tendency towards “insulin disorders that can increase inflammation in fetal brain tissue, damaging its ability to take in necessary nutrients and oxygen at key developmental stages.” The complications risked through unhealthy diet and lifestyle continues to grow, however there are active ways to prevent these problems.
In part I of this article, you took a 5-question self-assessment on your own fitness readiness. If most of your answers were “a’s” and “b’s,” then you are already building the foundation for a healthy lifestyle in the home, which will have significant beneficial impact on children, teens, and adults with autism. Those with mostly “c” responses represent a majority of the autism parent and educator population. You realize that fitness could play a role in optimizing development, but may need some more information about what fitness is, how to develop programs, and strategies for making exercise fun.
When we get to a majority of “d” and “e” answers there are a couple of likely possibilities. You may have never been “into sports” or had a bad experience with athletics. You may not have realized that fitness includes a lot more than team sport activities and that just because a child “hates sports” does not disqualify them from leading an active lifestyle.
It is practically impossible to cheer-lead anybody into being physically active if they do not already possess some level of motivation. It also violates my first rule of fitness: “You can’t force fun,” meaning something that should be enjoyable (exercise and vigorous play) cannot be taught effectively through demand situations. Still, there are some factors that you should consider:
- Fitness can prevent the onset of lifestyle disorders including Type II Diabetes, some types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease
- Fitness can optimize physical health
- Fitness aids in neurological and cognitive development
- Fitness can be a gateway to better socialization and self-esteem
- Fitness and play can be bonding activities for a family
It may be the case that the “d and e” crowd feels overwhelmed by the idea of starting a fitness program in the home or classroom. You may like my “stealth fitness” approach, which I mentioned during the Q & A section of a recent webinar interview. A parent emailed that that her son “hated exercise” and would refuse to do it. Beyond the potential issue of her and my definition of “exercise” being completely different, I suggested she go stealth in her approach.
Take a ball. Hand it to her son. Leave the room. Next time, hand him the ball and have him hand it back. Fitness session done for the day. I’m serious. I’ve started several fitness programs for individuals with very low adaptive functioning and this method is highly successful. Each day, aim for a little longer duration of activity and a wider array of activities. Not too much too soon, but enough to maintain increasing successes at the pace of the individual.
This approach to fitness may work for you as well. Ignoring a problem has yet to date been heralded as an effective solution. With a sedentary parent population and an increasing number of individuals with ASD leading less-than-active lives, we are entering a warning zone. The solution is to increase access to well-planned fitness programs across environments. In the home, in the classroom, we need to start moving forward with moving around.
Eric Chessen, M.S., YCS Eric Chessen, M.S. is the creator of the PAC Profile Assessment Toolbox (Autismfitness.com), PAC Profile Workshop series, and consults with special needs programs around the world. Available on www.Autismfitness.com
© Pavel Vlasov / photoxpress.com
- Workout Routine for Both You and Your Baby
- Playground Workout for Mom
- Get Your Heart Pumping with These Free and Easy Tips
- The Greatest Gift Of All Regaining Your Health & Your Groove
- Life as We Grow It: Fitness as a Life Skill for Special Needs Populations
- Turning Physical Fitness into Fun for Life
- The Family Factor of Five: Making Time for Fitness (and Actually Doing It)
- The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Fitness Programs
- 4 Exercise Progressions, 5W’s, and an H
- Waving Not Drowning: The Process of Making Fitness Fun
- Looking for a Fun Family Exercise? How About Parkour!
Visit us at: www.facebook.com
This post originally appeared on our May/June 2012 Magazine