WILLOWBROOK, Ill., April 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- More than half of the nation's children with autism are overweight, which puts them at risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and bone and joint problems. That alarming statistic influenced nationally recognized fitness expert Suzanne M. Gray to create at-home exercises parents can do with their children with autism. She has spent more than 30 years developing fitness programs for children with special needs.
Gray has seen how exercise works in addressing obesity, improving motor skills and muscle tone, eliminating self-destructive behaviors and enhancing socialization skills for children with autism.
Her latest program, "Five to Stay Alive," consists of at-home activities for children with autism to help fight obesity. For each activity, parents should set daily goals, record them on a chart and offer a motivator like a fat-free dessert or sticker. Activities include:
- Around the Block. Create a neighborhood walking path and have your child walk this once or twice daily. The child should wear a pedometer to measure steps and calories and track progress.
- Raise the Bar! You're a Star! Start with a dowel rod and raise it over head and back down. Eventually this can be substituted for weights.
- Chair Squats. This movement is required for most power moves of the lower extremities and most athletic events.
- Push-ups. If your child is able, have them do a designated number of push-ups every day.
- Jumping Jacks. Again, depending on where children are on the spectrum will make a difference in how many they can do.
"Parents who encourage daily exercise for children with autism will help them improve muscular imbalances, deficient motor skills, poor posture and other common fitness pitfalls," Gray says. "One of the biggest benefits of exercise is weight loss. Also, when you combine a fitness program with music and play, it will boost independence, happiness and self-esteem."