Exercise as a Solution for ADHD

in News
October 8th, 2014

With the diagnosis of ADHD in children on the rise, there is a push for researching a treatment and possible solution as well.  There have been numerous studies done on a correlation between increased physical activity and a higher degree of paying attention in those children with ADHD. So, is exercise the treatment that we are looking for?

In a study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, children in an elementary school classroom setting were randomly assigned to either a physical activity (PA) group or a sedentary classroom (SC) group for 31 minute periods per day for 12 weeks.  Parents and teachers were asked to rate ADHD symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity/ impulsivity, oppositional behavior and moodiness before and after the study was completed.  The first analyses of this study found that the PA group was more effective at reducing inattention and moodiness at home.  Follow up analyses found that the PA intervention reduced impairment associated with ADHD both at home and at school.  An unexpected finding that the SC intervention was potentially useful for managing these ADHD symptoms was also found in this experiment. This study was done with a liberal analysis and without a control group, so that is important to note as well.

In other research published in the medical journal Pediatrics, it was found that kids who regularly participate in physical activity showed enhanced cognitive performance and brain function.  The effect that physical activity has on brain control supports the hypothesis that exercise improves brain health, especially in kids who are inattentive or hyperactive.  The reason that this research is so significant is because physical education programs in schools are still under-funded and under-prioritized, even though there are so many positive outcomes of consistent exercise.

The question now becomes: have we created a generation of children with ADHD because of the lack of physical education? And if so, can we reverse that?  According to this research, it is possible!

-Melissa Heller



Examining Effects of Physical Activity on ADHD Symptoms in Young Children – Springer

Exercise is ADHD Medication – The Atlantic

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