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  • Autism Exercise Specialist | Grow Your Career + Meet Community Needs

    by David Barr | Apr 15, 2021

    David Geslak Autism Training ACSM

    Personal Trainers Need More Clients. And Persons with Autism Need Personal Trainers.

    Key Points

    1. The autism community needs exercise and the place where many should be getting it, the schools, is leaving them wandering and wondering.

    2. Persons with autism thrive with individualized, in-person instruction.

    3. While virtual training continues to grow, personal trainers have an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on a community that needs exercise.


    Over the past year there has been a dramatic increase in virtual workout options, leading many to claim that face-to-face personal training is “dead.” While it may be true that many people have gone virtual (and many won’t return), there is a segment of the population that needs the personal attention of in-person training — persons with autism.

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the world (5). According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 54 children is diagnosed with autism. Supporting research for the autism community shows that exercise can improve focus, on-task behavior, and language development and reduce maladaptive or stereotypical behaviors (1-5).

    Many — maybe most — persons with autism learn best with individualized, in-person instruction in both the school and therapy settings (e.g., physical, occupational, behavioral). In response to COVID-19, the education system has gone primarily virtual and its effects, shown in a recent study, are detrimental.  

    Personal training is a perfect match for the way this community learns. And they need it more than ever because physical education (PE), in many schools, continues to go by the wayside.


    Many Persons with ASD are Left Wandering and Wondering in the Gym

    The Every Student Succeeds Act (6) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004) support participation in physical education in schools for students with disabilities. That said, many students with autism do not receive appropriate physical education services or the full benefits from physical education.

    The U.S. Government Accountability Office identified key challenges in physical education for those with disabilities — lack of clarity regarding schools' responsibility in PE, limited teacher preparation, and budget constraints (7). In response to these shortcomings, the fitness industry has an opportunity to help the autism community achieve the many lifelong benefits of exercise.

    Creating Autism Exercise Programs that Make a Difference

    Having gyms and fitness centers welcoming this community is a needed first step, as many in this community are still being turned away because trainers don’t know how to teach them. Just as you would educate and prepare yourself to lead a HIIT, yoga, or spin class, it is even more critical to educate yourself when working with persons with autism. Developing an exercise plan for persons with autism that is only 90% correct will most likely result in 100% failure.

    ACSM and I created the Autism Exercise Specialist Certificate so you will have the protocols and tools you need to make a difference. We need to take action to help these individuals and their families. As gyms, fitness centers and trainers struggle to find new clients to replace those who are now working out on their Peloton® bikes, the ASD community is a new opportunity to find clients who want and need your services. Empowering the ASD community to make the exercise connection is worth the effort.

    They’re waiting…so let’s get moving!

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    David Geslak ACSM

    David S. Geslak, BS, ACSM-EP, the founder of Exercise Connection, has pioneered exercise tools and programs to engage and improve the lives of those with autism. David also created the Autism Exercise Specialist Certificate (AESC) in partnership with ACSM. He has trained professionals around the world on the AESC. His commitment and methodology to bringing exercise to persons with autism has been enthusiastically embraced by professionals, higher education, and the autism community.


    1. Elliott RO Jr, Dobbin AR, Rose GD, Soper HV. Vigorous, aerobic exercise versus general motor training activities: effects on maladaptive and stereotypic behaviors of adults with both autism and mental retardation. J Autism Dev Disord. 1994;24(5):565-76. Epub 1994/10/01. doi: 10.1007/BF02172138. PubMed PMID: 7814306.


    2. Nicholson H, Kehle TJ, Bray MA, Heest JV. The effects of antecedent physical activity on the academic engagement of children with autism spectrum disorder. Psychol Sch. 2011;48(2):198-213. doi: 10.1002/pits.20537.


    3. Schmitz Olin S, McFadden BA, Golem DL, et al. The effects of exercise dose on stereotypical behavior in children with autism. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(5):983-90. Epub 2017/01/07. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001197. PubMed PMID: 28060033.


    4. Sowa M, Meulenbroek R. Effects of physical exercise on autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis. Res Autism Spectr Disord. 2012;6(1):46-57. doi: 0.1016/j.rasd.2011.09.001.


    5. Tse ACY, Liu VHL, Lee PH. Investigating the matching relationship between physical exercise and stereotypic behavior in children with autism. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2021;53(4):770-775. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002525.


    6. U.S. Department of Education. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 2015.


    7. U.S. Government Accountability Office. Students With Disabilities: More Information and Guidance Could Improve Opportunities in Physical Education and Athletics. 2010.


  • Breaking Barriers Amid a Global Pandemic | Summit 2021

    by David Barr | Apr 08, 2021

    ACSM Health and Fitness Summit 2021

    ACSM's International Health & Fitness Summit is the ONE place where professionals, like you, can explore the full spectrum of the field and gain insights from experts.

    The Summit is the best place to learn how to put the latest scientific findings into practice!

    ACSM Sports Medicine Bulletin
    Dr. Yuri Feito breaks down this years Summit in this special feature of ACSM's Sports Medicine Bulletin

    View the Special Feature Now

    Explore Program Tracks and Sessions

    Become an Alliance Member and Save

    Register Now


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  • How to Deliver Online Training | Feature

    by David Barr | Apr 07, 2021

    Online Fitness Guide ACSM

    Effectively deliver online training, incorporate evidence-informed behavior change strategies into virtual fitness and optimize safety and client success online.

    This featured article from ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal® summarizes keys for how to deliver Online Training - the #1 Fitness Trend.
    ACSM Fitness Journal March April 2021

    Read the featured article courtesy of ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal®  

    Earn CECs With This Article

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    View the 2021 Fitness Trends Resource Guide
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  • How to Train for a 5K | CEC Quiz

    by David Barr | Apr 06, 2021

    ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal® March - April 2021 CEC Course #1: How to Train for a 5K - What does the Science Say?

    Available ACSM CECs: 2.0

    5K Training Science ACSM 

    A realistic and scientific approach for developing a 12-week training program for an intermediate-level recreational runner preparing for their first 5K race.

    About the course:

    This course includes an online ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal® article and a corresponding online quiz. All course content will be presented to you electronically upon completion of your purchase. 


    Read the free article

    Purchase and earn CECs
    Bundle quizzes and save 50%

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  • Fitness Loans During COVID-19 | Fitness Protection Program

    by David Barr | Apr 05, 2021

    USREPS ACSMACSM is part of the Gyms Act team - to provide Small Business Administration grants to small gyms and fitness studio owners.

    According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA),

    COVID-19 related closures were responsible for a 58% decline in revenue and the loss of 1.4 million jobs in 2020.

    In collaboration with IHRSA and the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP), the ACSM Certification Board (CCRB) is actively engaging with members of Congress to advocate for the Gym Mitigation and Survival Act (H.R. 890).

    This act would provide Small Business Administration grants to small gyms and fitness studio owners.

    This year saw the convening of a new Congress. One piece of legislation that has been introduced is directly related to our profession. It is H.R. 890 - Gym Mitigation and Survival Act (Gyms Act). This Act is one of many additional measures Congress is considering to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. If passed, it will provide relief to the nation’s health and fitness industry by providing Small Business Administration grants to small gyms and fitness studio owners to help them recover from significant lost revenue in 2020 due to COVID-19.

    CREP is making legislators aware that this important legislation: offers much needed relief to the fitness industry; supports the healthy lifestyles our nation seeks for the citizens; and has the potential to save thousands of jobs and small businesses.

    We know that measures have been approved to help other industries affected by this pandemic and CREP hopes that similar considerations will be given to the health and fitness industry, one that has not received targeted government aid to date. Without it, many businesses and jobs will be lost, and the health of our nation further challenged.

    To date, we have reached out to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and the members of the House Committee on Small Business (charged with reviewing this legislation), requesting their support for this legislation. We will be reaching out to others in the coming months. 

    CREP has and continues to tell government officials at the federal and state level that the contributions of exercise professionals are vitally important in promoting the healthy active lifestyles that are so important to the wellness of this country, especially during, and may be even more so after, the pandemic.  

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