Keeping fit during Coronavirus
For lots of autistic young people, keeping fit and exercising is a way of regulating feelings and emotions.
The closure of gyms and restrictions in place to reduce the spread of the virus may mean that there are less opportunities for autistic young people to use exercise as a coping tool, resulting in feelings of frustration.
Alternatively, others may find that staying at home for longer periods than usual has increased time sitting down, playing games, or watching television.
We know that physical health has a significant impact on mental health, which is why it is essential to be active. Here we outline lots of ways to keep fit and exercise either at the local park, while observing social distancing, or even at home.
At TreeHouse School, a specialist school run by Ambitious about Autism, pupils spend 10 to 15 minutes every day, before lessons, doing exercises to get their heart rates going.
This has a noticeable effect on their concentration and wellbeing. Try our morning movement and exercise videos to get your day off to the right start. You can switch it up and increase the amount of movement by playing chase, doing treasure hunts, racing family members. Try to increase the frequency, intensity, time and type of activity to ensure it doesn't get boring!
Enjoy your allotted time for walking
The government has announced that even those who are shielding can now go out and enjoy a walk once a day. Walking is a good way to discover and explore new areas. Young people should try to reach at least 10,000 steps per day for a healthy lifestyle.
Playing outside is a great way to get fresh air, increase step count and increase heart rate. By playing games like catch with the family, young people can learn through play and get healthier. Swinging and trampolining can be fun for those with sensory difficulties.
For younger children, GoNoodle Games is a free app that can help get children with special educational needs moving at home to keep them more active.
If a child or young person has communication or processing difficulties it might be helpful to use a visual story board to describe the movements or exercises. Do each activity for just one minute and when it has finished count down and say “finished. Now we do….” while pointing to the next symbol on the board. Exercises can include reaching up or makings fists. Anything to encourage movement and increase the heartrate. You can use symbols, photos, pictures or objects - any kind of visual that helps them relate and understand.
Do exercise videos
There are lots of quality YouTube videos for children and young people of all ages encouraging exercise at home. Lots of younger children enjoy online PE lessons with Joe Wicks. For young people, the NHS Fitness Studio has posted 24 instructor-led videos for exercises, including aerobics, strength and resistance training, Pilates and yoga.
Order equipment for a home gym
If there is space in the garden or at home, ordering training equipment can help keep active without going to the gym.
Not all gym equipment may be suitable for the home, but there is still lots to choose from. For example, an exercise or yoga mat for seated exercises, such as yoga or pilates, or dumbbells and weights which can be used anywhere with a chair. Some people even enjoying buying the equipment to learn new skills, like a weighed bag for kickboxing or self-defense. For those with sensory difficulties, throwing weighted objects like a medicine ball can help core strength and co-ordination.
Sign up to an online class
Some local gyms and personal trainers are holding online classes you can sign up to for a reduced fee. Online classes can reduce the anxiety of joining a class with lots of new people. Plus doing them from the comfort of your own home means they cost a fraction of the price.
Go for a run
Running, jogging or speed walking are all good ways to increase your heart rate. Don’t be daunted if you’re a beginner, Couch to 5k eases you into running with an app, tips and podcast.
Complete a 30-day exercise challenge
There are lots of challenges you can do over 30-days to help you get fitter.
Try doing one sit-up or push-up each day. Practice doing the splits and see the progress after 30 days. You can even challenge yourself to do a full body workout, without equipment, by following an app like 30 Day Fitness Challenge.
Drink lots of water
Drinking lots of water is a fast and easy way to look after the body, it also helps improve concentration.
There is lots of natural water in some foods too, particularly in fruit and vegetables for example, cucumber and watermelon are over 90 per cent water!