Sensory Scout Blog

How Fitness Can Help With Sensory Challenges

Posted by Vanessa Caalim on

How Fitness Can Help With Sensory Challenges

As the parent of a child with sensory challenges or autism, you might put all your energy into therapy for behavioral and social skills. Therapy is powerful, no doubt about that. But, this means metabolic issues and physical activity get push to the back burner.

Lack of physical activity can lead to obesity and other health future health concerns. Inactivity takes a toll on a child’s progress too! Let’s get them moving.

We’ll talk about the challenges and benefits of physical fitness, and share a simple kids’ workout for you to try!

Does your child avoid physical activity?


Disinterest in physical activity makes sense for a lot of kiddos with SPD. We know from research that people with autism tend to have weaker muscular coordination, endurance, balance, and other mobility skills. 

Typically, a child builds these skills at the park, at school, or while playing with peers. But, places like school and the park can be overwhelming - they’re social, loud, and unpredictable! 

So it’s perfectly natural that your kiddo wants to avoid physical activity. It takes a lot of physical effort, and it can be too much for their sensory system.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

Physical activity can create challenges for your child, but it benefits their development! You can get creative with how to integrate it. 

How can you encourage physical activity? Include it in your family’s daily routine! Start small at home and work your way up to those park visits. You will find something that works for your kiddo.

A physical activity routine helps reduce fidgeting, aggression, off-task behaviors, and meltdowns².  Big wins for both you and your child.

Physical activity also helps improve

  • Sensorimotor skills
  • Behavioral and emotional regulation
  • Sensory integration and focus
  • The ability to learn new information
  • Communication skills


A simple 7-minute HIIT workout to try with your kid

We recently interviewed Nicole Day - a mom of a child with sensory needs and founder of the blog “He's Extraordinary”.  She shared her simple, 7-minute workout routine for kids with sensory challenges. 

This easy animal-themed workout includes 7 moves! Each movement lasts for 45 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest. It’s only 7 minutes, but it’s enough to really get your child moving!

Here we go!

  1. Frog hops - As many as possible!
  2. Bear walks - Hands and feet on the floor with hips high up. Walk back and forth!
  3. Gorilla shuffle - Low sumo squat with fists down then jumping or shuffling back and forth!
  4. Starfish jumps - Jumping jacks!
  5. Cheetah run - Run in place as fast as you can!
  6. Elephant stomps - March in place with knees high up as fast as you can, stomping hard like an elephant!
  7. Crab walk - Sit down with palms placed behind you. Lift hips and crawl on your hands!

That’s it! 

Ideally, this workout should be done first thing in the morning! It helps set the mood for learning during the day. These simple exercises provide great stimuli and help the brain improve sensory processing. You can also use it as a study break or after school activity to prevent meltdowns in the afternoon!

4 Tips For Success



1) Be patient with your kiddo (and yourself). Your child might not like all this new activity at first. They might have difficulty learning the movements. That’s ok! Patience, perseverance, and encouragement are key. 

2) Remember to celebrate small wins with your child, even if it’s just learning one animal movement each day.

3) Be the example! Some kids are visual learners, so let them watch you do the movement first. Encourage your child to imagine these animals and have fun mimicking them.  

4) Make physical activity a fun daily routine. You can use a visual schedule to show your child, “Hey, it’s time to move like animals!”

 Have fun and get moving with your kiddos!