This Autistic Fitness Trainer Helps Others On The Spectrum Get in Shape

Exercising the mind and body

Apr 10, 2019

Tags:

Autism, Fitness

Mark Fleming possess a certain kindness and understanding when it comes to training his clients. As he watches a young man with autism jump over the hurdles, he’s able to coach him through his movement and appreciate the struggle, because Fleming, too, is on the spectrum.

Through his job, Fleming is able to combine two interests close to his heart, exercise and helping others with autism reach their goals in life.

"I think it is important to help others on the spectrum to achieve the life that they desire. And exercise is a great way to do that," he told CNN. "I have them do this exercise to get the brain working... Coming to a new place can be challenging to an individual with autism."

After earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Alabama, Fleming began working as a Special Olympics volunteer, where he saw firsthand how challenging it was for participants to stay in shape after the event.

"There was nothing for people with autism to stay active [after the Special Olympics ended]. And they would end up regressing. A lot of the time, people with disabilities stay at home a lot and become sedentary,” he said.

To help them stay motivated and keep up with their healthy habits, Fleming opened an in-home personal training service, especially for those with autism. After three years, he had enough clients and interest that he was able to open his own gym, Puzzle Piece Fitness.

And it’s at this gym that Fleming welcomes clients of all places on the spectrum to push themselves and celebrate their willingness to grow.

"I have to cater to their individual needs... Just because I have autism doesn't mean I know everything they are going through. I'm very open with them about that."

"It's just to try to provide individuals a way to stay active, no matter where they are in their life" the fitness trainer and gym owner added. "Just seeing individuals get healthy, it's awesome -- the healthier these individuals are, the more likely they are to live their best lives."

REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.

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