Thursday, 31 October 2013

What Do We Provide?

Exercise Is Therapy is dedicated to the promotion of fitness for persons with special needs, in particular those kids on the autism spectrum.

The benefits of exercise are far reaching both immediately and long term. Above and beyond the improvement of strength, muscle tone, cardiovascular, and kinaesthetic improvements that can be obtained from an exercise program there is a growing body of research that explores the endocrine and neurological benefits as well. 

INDIVIDUALS:  an abilities based program that will identify strengths and build on them.

  • Fitness based
    • Dynamic skills --> single and double leg hops, jumping from a height, medicine ball lift, throw and catch, climbing over, under, and through obstacles, stair climbing

    • Balance skills --> slack line, wobble seats, stepping stones, curb walking

    • Strength skills --> medicine ball (for grip strength), movement of medicine balls through playground, medicine ball distance throws, push ups, pull ups
    • Coordination skills --> walk-jog-run, stair climb, juggle, catch and throw, movement (motor) planning
  • Goal oriented
    • learn to catch and throw, juggle, ride a scooter or bike, run long distances, snow board, Parkour, swimming, climb a tree, toss a caber!
SMALL GROUPS:  social skills are practiced through physical play, rules of the game, communication

FAMILIES:  participation in healthy activities is best modeled by the whole family. 
  • When Mum, Dad, siblings, caregivers, and friends participate in activities that are inclusive and abilities based EVERYBODY benefits.  
  • The simplest playground can rival the most modern gym if you know how to use it!
COMMUNITY OUTREACH:  Seminars on the Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How of fitness for ALL individuals

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

BDNF: My Final Stand!

Until science can definitively tell me otherwise I believe I stand on firm ground with respect to the benefits of exercise for kids with autism.  I was focusing solely on the idea that BDNF promotes neurogenesis and that was it.
I sent an email to Dr. John Ratey the author of SPARK asking a question about BDNF and ASD.  Part of his answer was:

"BDNF is a general fertilizer, has effects everywhere--  we can say it reduces depression and anxiety, combats stress— all important in special needs kids of all sorts and of course promotes learning"  (John Ratey, personal communication)

This works for me!

The more I think about the importance of exercise and the overall benefits derived from it the more I need to promote exercise for kids with special needs.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

RE: BDNF and Autism

I found a post from Paul Whiteley that may not answer a single thing!!:

With autism in mind, there is a body of evidence on BDNF which suggests a few things albeit not exactly consistently:

  • I am a little bit unsure whether BDNF is meant to be 'generally' high or low in cases of autism. Accepting the factors which can influence BDNF listed above, there seems to be some conflicting evidence on findings related to blood/plasma. So for example, this paper by Al-Ayadhi** (full-text), an author mentioned in previous posts, reported lower levels of serum BDNF in their cohort of children with autism. This contrasts with this paper by Connolly and colleagues*** who reported elevations in BDNF. Just to complicate matters further Lisa Croen and colleagues**** (full-text) reported no significant differences in blood concentrations of BDNF in either mums mid-pregnancy nor their young offspring subsequently diagnosed with autism compared with asymptomatic and learning disability control participants. I might be comparing apples and oranges at different times of year, but suffice to say that results are not yet clean-cut.
  • When it comes to genes and BDNF in cases of autism, the waters aren't really any less muddy. This paper by Correia and colleagues***** reported elevations in plasma BDNF in their autism cohort but the source of the increase did not seem to stem from issues with the BDNF gene. Without being an expert on all things genetic, I think this finding might also tie into the results published by Garcia and colleagues****** who suggested that BDNF elevations might not be "transcriptionally driven" (see here for a summary of mRNA). There are other studies looking at other features of BDNF seemingly reporting contrasting findings such as decreased BDNF and anti-apoptotic function (here) and SNPs in the BDNF gene in autism (here andhere). The message continues: it's complicated.

Thank you, Paul!

Monday, 7 October 2013


I have bee researching many papers on the effect of exercise on neurochemistry and how it may relate to autism spectrum disorder. There have been a number of recent studies that identified an increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), particularly in the hippocampus, the centre of learning and memory in the brain.  BDNF is a compound that promotes neuronal growth and protection and synaptic connections which all relate to the idea that the brain has the ability to grow and change (brain plasticity).

This has huge ramifications for elderly people with Alzheimer's (as some investigators suggest).  

What about autism?

Here is where I hit a wall and need to find more research in the area. In fact I found a couple of articles that suggested some people with ASD had up three times as much BDNF in their blood serum. I could not find out if this was because it was not being utilized or if it had a negative effect on the brain.

There are also connections between exercise, BDNF, and serotonin, and how exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression

I need more on the direct positive relationships between EXERCISE and AUTISM!

Modie, Jonathan. (2003). "'Good' Chemical, Neurons in Brain Elevated Among Exercise Addicts." OHSU, online.

"Exercise can help brain healing process." (2004). Medical Research News, online.

Russo-Neustadt, A.A., R.C. Beard, Y.M. Huang, and C.W. Cotman. (2000). "Physical Activity and Antidepressant Treatment Potentiate the Expression of Specific Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Transcripts in the Rat Hippocampus." Neuroscience, 101, 305-312