benefits of sports and exercise for individuals with autism

Programs offered at Lions United

There are many ways to support exercise for individuals with autism, so they’re able to successfully step into the world of sport. Physical exercise has a lot of health benefits; essentially as it enhances physical and emotional well-being, boosts self-esteem and helps improve social skills.

people with autism

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are far more likely to miss out on sporting opportunities. This can be caused by anxiety in social situations, sensory challenges, understanding body language and verbal and non-verbal communication.

It’s useful to know that regular exercise has many benefits. Exercise has been known to decrease self-stimulatory behavior such as hyperactivity, self-destructiveness and aggression. Sports have also had additional benefits of improving social skills through relationship building with teammates, listening skills and attention span.

Bringing the fun factor into sports makes it less daunting. Engaging in the right type of fitness program can help to nurture both physical coordination and social skills. Gradually building their experience and confidence by joining in activities organized by clubs who are more accommodating to their needs.

Choosing the right coach who has the:

  • experience
  • qualifications
  • knowledge
  • empathy
  • ambition

will bring out the best in them and have the best possible experience and outcome. Having these conversations very early on with the coach or team leader helps to educate and ensure everyone involved is supported. With fifteen years of experience, Coach Andy has discovered numerous individual and team sports that could benefit someone with autism.

team sports suitable for people with autism


Swimming Club

Basic swimming strokes and water-play mean this is a more manageable team activity. This sport works as it still allows for individual competition and group participation. It’s a great way to encourage exercise for individuals with autism.


This is another great sport for those with autism to try. Events relating to track and field, such as running, javelin or long-jump are all activities that mean an autistic person can enjoy individual competition, that still contributes to the team.


Gymnastics and specifically trampolining can be a great sport that will allow those with autism to prosper without barriers.

individual sports suitable for people with autism



Powerlifting, when you think about it, is really quite beautiful. Powerlifting is not just about lifting heavy weights. No, there is way more to it than that. Powerlifting teaches us so many things about ourselves. Coach Andy mentions that when he discovered powerlifting years ago, he found out what he was really made of on the inside. Although a team sport, powerlifting is pretty individualized. You are competing against yourself. Powerlifting teaches us about dedication, perseverance, discipline and so much more. Powerlifting can help us to relate to real-life qualities as well such as physical strength, mental strength, intellectual strength and emotional intelligence.

martial arts

There are many different types of martial arts programs for individuals with autism to enjoy, such as karate, judo, taekwondo, aikido and many more. This activity is great for combining repetition, structure and discipline in a fun and active way, a great way to encourage exercise for individuals with autism.

Horse Riding

Although this can be a pricey activity, it can be incredibly rewarding to those with autism. In fact, many autistic children ride horses as a therapeutic activity and often find a different level of communication and comfort.


The mental, spiritual and psychological benefits of yoga are countless. Yoga is very beneficial and has been regularly practiced in the east for centuries before the start of a school or working day. Yoga is an activity that demands mental discipline, mindfulness, balance and core strength. It could be part of a routine or done as a family activity.

the right approach

When it comes to different sports clubs there are many different types. Approaching a more specialized club catering solely to more challenging needs might work better for some. A hybrid sports club offering a mix of disabled and able-bodied opportunities, or a fully mainstream club can work for others. Lions United Fitness Center is Minnesota’s first fully inclusive fitness center. Meaning everybody is welcome. Coach Andy has fifteen years of experience enhancing the lives of people with autism. Reach out to Coach Andy and see what he can do for you, your child or adult with autism.