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Summer shape up

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Summer is just around the corner, and there will be flocks of children and teenagers outside running free. We are all aware now about the health benefits of sunshine and vitamin D, incorporating exercise into our daily lives and making sure to spend time away from television and computer screens. Studies have shown that people who exercise outdoors feel revitalized, have increased energy levels, and feel more satisfied. At the same time, they also decrease their levels of tension, depression, and anger. Hmm, sounds good!

We have to remember to include and encourage this type of a healthy lifestyle for people with disabilities as well. Physical activity has been shown to improve fitness levels and general motor function of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. This is especially true for those who seem to exert extra energy or display a frequent tendency towards aggressive behaviors. For people with special needs, such as autism spectrum disorder, events flow much smoother when there is a routine in place. This should lead families to develop a scheduled habit of exercise. It becomes a daily activity.

Encouraging your child or teen to embrace an exercise plan takes preparation, organization, motivation, and time. Prepare your loved one to know that a new activity will begin. Choose the beginning on a calendar: the beginning of the week, the beginning of the month, or the beginning of summer. Organize the exercise visually on a calendar, and if possible, make it the same time on the same days each week. Always allow one or two days off from schedules in order to allow your child to spontaneously make choices.

Motivate this new athlete internally and externally. First, pick exercise routines that he will enjoy. This will help him find natural reinforcement from participating in a common act. Secondly, create the schedule to highlight that Point A is the exercise and Point B is reward time with a highly preferred item or activity. Keep the exercise time to less than 30 minutes. If your child or teen can only engage for a maximum of 10 minutes, then that is a great starting point.

Think outside of the box. Sports and exercise can be solo or within a group. While some activities are not traditional team sports, there are those that allow your child to interact directly or on a parallel level with peers. These may be better routes to take if conversation and friendly childhood chaos is overwhelming. Ideas may include: swimming, singles tennis, walking or running, horseback riding, skating, bike riding, hiking, jump rope, trampoline time, and other physically active exercise programs that naturally instill a calm flow of body movement.

Your child or teen can — and should — be outside having a jolly time, just as his typical neighbors are. By exercising, your child will enjoy himself, as well as strengthen the ability to execute mental functions in a composed manner. Start an outdoor routine now — summer is here. It will only enhance your loved one’s body, mind, and spirit.

Updated 4:45 pm, July 9, 2018
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