Sergei Popov, Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is offering kayaking lessons to local children with autism. The Landmark reports that Popov’s interest in kayaking and medical research inspired him to offer lessons. Popov has raced competitively in whitewater slalom and flatwater spring kayaking. He is also conducting research in molecular and cell biology and immunology at the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology. Popov told Landmark:

“When I learned that autism manifestations could be connected to the malfunctioning of mitochondrial complex in neurons, I thought that aerobic workouts could induce favorable conditions to simulate the functioning of mitochondria as an ‘energy factory’ of cells and neurons particularly”.

Popov added that kayaking stimulates the function of the central nervous system. Students with disabilities from the American Senior High School spend time learning to kayak and sail with their teachers, PBS News Hour reports. The Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Director of Physical Education and Health Literacy, Jayne Greenberg, developed a Physical Education Program, with help from local organizations, that teaches students activities, such as sailing, kayaking, golfing, etc. Take a look at PBS News Hour’s video on the Physical Education Program.

According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition the obesity rate for children with disabilities is 38% higher for children with disabilities and 57% higher for adults with disabilities. Activities like kayaking can help improve the health and fitness of individuals with disabilities, reports PBS New Hour.

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