Are you autistic, unemployed or have little money and wondering how to get started with an exercise program? You have a built-in gym: your body.
This article, written by a clinically diagnosed Autistic, will be loaded with bluntness – in true autistic fashion.
And my first blunt comment is this: Being chronically unemployed or working a low wage job is NO excuse for having poor physical fitness and living on a junk food diet.
Having Autism Spectrum Disorder is NO excuse for neglecting the health and fitness of your body.
I’m going to slug below the belt with this article, because it really steams me that the average life expectancy for those with Level 1 ASD is only 58.
It vexes me to no end how an autistic individual — who may have always felt “cheated” in life due to their difficulties with social navigation and sensory issues – will still refuse to engage in a venture that they can actually be on a level playing field with when compared to neurotypicals: structured exercise!
Despite this article’s direct, blunt, straightforward approach, I’m also going to explain how you, the autistic adult, can integrate a fitness regimen into your life – even if you’re living below the poverty level; even if you can’t find employment; even if you have substantial sensory issues or difficulty with basic human interaction.
However, I also need to point out that many autistic individuals who lead sedentary lifestyles (and thus are in poor physical condition, having a body that resembles that of Homer Simpson or Flabby Flo) – are actually gainfully employed and living independent lives.
I’ve not been able to locate a study that shows the average life expectancy of specifically Autistics who have long-term employment.
But I’d imagine that the average life expectancy for Autistics who, for instance, hold teaching jobs, careers in tech and other professional fields, or high-paying labor jobs such as construction, would be a lot higher than 58.
This begs the question: Does employment and its health insurance lead to a longer life?
Or, perhaps it works as follows: An autistic adult who has the cognitive bandwidth to hold down a good job would also more likely possess the cognitive capacity to place a high value on sticking to an exercise regimen and making conscious efforts to adhere to a healthful diet.
In short, an association between two factors doesn’t always mean causality. Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
Another intriguing consideration is that having medical coverage is linked to a longer life because it pays for exams such as annual physicals, mammograms and workups for concerning symptoms – which all can lead to an early diagnosis of a serious disease.
However, having health coverage doesn’t make one’s body physically fit. It only gets any disease diagnosed – and treated – sooner.
You can still be in miserable physical shape despite having the best medical insurance.
Home Gym Workouts with Zero to Minimal Money Investment
Your body is your gym equipment. Bodyweight exercises are a very effective form of weight bearing movements.
You can do pushups with your hands on the edge of a countertop or the trunk of a car.
As you get stronger you can try pushups on your knees and, over time, work towards full pushups.
A pull-up bar from Amazon costs $20 (see image below). BUT WAIT – if you can’t do pull-ups, no problem!
Did you know that simply hanging counts as a strength training exercise?
Hang for a few seconds to start. Or, hang with your feet barely touching the floor or with only one foot barely touching it – whatever it takes to subtract some body weight from the hang.
Hanging strengthens the shoulders, back and core (abs and low back)!
Over time you can do “jump pull-ups” by jumping up so that you’re hanging with bent arms, then slowly lower yourself, feet off the floor.
Got some steps or a sturdy short table in your home? You can do dips for your shoulders and the backs of your arms (see image below).
- Your legs make for fabulous workout equipment.
- Below are images depicting various leg workouts.
- No equipment needed other than your legs!
- You can start with some jumping jacks.
In addition to that $20 pull-up bar (the cost of about four Whopper Combo Meals from Burger King or the low end of a basic manicure), you can purchase a set of tension bands for about $20 from Amazon (see image below).
A dumbbell set costs $37. Give up $37 worth of junk food over 30 days and you have your money for three pairs of dumbbells (see image below).
Free delivery of all these products is often an option. Furthermore – and I speak from experience – exercise equipment literally lasts decades.
In fact, you can still be using the equipment you buy today when you’re 90!
Giving up some monthly payments for manicures, hair tint jobs, a new tattoo, new earrings, yet another pair of dress shoes, the new lip color from the Kardashian line, a trip to the movie theatre, a new video game, etc., will easily pay for home exercise equipment that will last a lifetime.
In fact, giving up a few bags of chips and a few donuts plus a can of soda will pay for a membership at Planet Fitness: just $10 a month!
See the image below. The $49 annual fee equates to $4 per month: half the cost of a pack of cigarettes (quit smoking!); less than the cost of a six-pack of beer; and equal to the cost of three or four candy bars, depending on where you buy them.
And by the way, you can also take up brisk walking, some jogging and even buy a jump rope ($9 on Amazon).
What about obesity?
Obesity is so prevalent in the United States, that it’s no surprise that it affects autistic people – but unfortunately, more so than it does neurotypicals.
However, obesity does not prevent weight bearing or cardio exercise!
- Poverty doesn’t cause obesity.
- Overconsumption of food does.
Though there’s an association between poverty and obesity, this association does not establish cause-and-effect.
If you look at crowds of people in developing countries, where there is true poverty and food shortages, most have a lean build; very few are obese, let alone morbidly obese.
Spend the same amount of money that you do on junk food on healthy food.
If this means less food, you’ll lose weight: a win-win – save money while losing excess fat.
However, you’d be surprised at the amount of healthy food that comes with the same cost as junk food. See the image below.
I Cringe at Flabby Bodies
No, not “All bodies are good bodies.” This mantra is spoken all over TikTok by morbidly obese influencers, and is also sold on tee shirts. Well, I don’t subscribe to this mantra.
How about: “Only fit and healthy bodies are good bodies.”
Though it’s true that there are people (autistic and NT) who, despite “doing everything right,” end up with a serious illness for no known reason, it’s a massive fact of research, science and meta-analytic studies that when a body is trained from structured workouts, is at a medically acceptable weight, and gets fed mostly healthful food — it is FAR MORE LIKELY TO BE STRONG, FREE OF ACHES AND PAINS, FREE OF SICKNESS, FREE OF HAVING TO TAKE MEDICATIONS, AND MAKE IT TO RIPE OLD AGE WITHOUT SERIOUS DISEASE.
- It’s just a plain hardcore fact.
- Facts over feelings.
- Research. Facts.
Autism Spectrum Disorder does NOT have to shorten your lifespan or make you physically weak or prone to health ailments!
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical and fitness topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder.