Using exercise for ADHD has been shown to increase the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. These important brain chemicals help regulate mood, focus, and emotions.
They also help control body movements and executive brain functions such as memory, inhibition, prioritization, and sustained attention.
In addition, ADHD sufferers tend to have lower levels of dopamine and serotonin in their bodies compared to non-ADHD sufferers, which makes exercise an important tool in the fight against ADHD.
Also, exercise promotes more restful and effective sleep, which is important to overall health. Exercise also increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, which also improves overall brain health and executive brain functions.
these reasons, not only is exercise strongly recommended as part of a treatment
regimen for those who suffer from ADHD, it may be even more important than ADHD medications such as Ritalin, Adderall, etc. which come with side effects that are often worse than ADHD itself.
So which exercises are most effective in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? It does not matter, but aerobic exercise seems to be the most effective.
The most important thing is to find an activity your child enjoys. If your child has an interest in ballet, yoga, dancing, or gymnastics, they are also great outlets to channel hyperactivity. In addition, organized team sports and intramural clubs are another great outlet to burn excess energy.
Activities can can include walking, biking, running, hiking, rollerblading, using a treadmill, etc. You don't need a gym membership or a personal trainer; just get out there and move.
In my clinical and personal experience, martial arts is an effective outlet for my son who suffers from ADHD. As an added benefit, martial arts teaches focus, respect,
discipline, and the calming elements of eastern philosophy.
For adults who have not exercised for a while, you can start slowly by becoming active for 10 or 15 minutes each day until you build up the stamina for 30-60 minutes (or more) of exercise daily. Children with ADHD, on the other hand, typically have no problem being active as they are usually "on the go."
The important thing is to get started. Find an activity your child enjoys or, even better, find something you and your child can do together to increase family bonding.
- The March 2013 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics published a study with evidence suggesting that exercise improves behavioral, neurocognitive, and scholastic performance in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
- The September 2014 Journal of Abnormal Psychology noted the role of aerobic physical activity in reducing ADHD symptoms in young children.
- The August 2011 issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders published a study showing the benefits of a before-school physical activity program in reducing ADHD symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior in school-age children.
- Azrin et. al at Nova Southeastern University found that children with
ADHD who exercised regularly exhibited less hyperactivity and were less
likely to engage in risky, impulsive behaviors.
- Researchers at the University of California found that CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) approaches, including exercise, reduced the behavioral symptoms of ADHD.
All of these studies tested correlations so we cannot make causal claims, but the evidence suggests an enormous positive role in using exercise to relieve ADHD symptoms.
Exercise is an easy, convenient method to help reduce and manage ADHD symptoms for both children and adults. Using exercise for ADHD is free, and can be done by anyone in the comfort of their own home without the use of special equipment. Not only does exercise contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle, it may be as important as medication in relieving ADHD symptoms.