Can Exercise Reduce Symptoms of ADHD?
ADHD can be very frustrating for the affected individual, as well as, those with whom they interact on a regular basis. Medication and psychotherapy are common forms of treatment, as well as dietary adjustment. Recently, research is indicating the important role that exercise plays in managing and treating ADHD.
It is believed that physical activity alleviates ADHD symptoms because exercise boosts the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine - hormones that play a role in the brain's ability to focus and pay attention. Furthermore, as is the case with the general population, exercise is known to boost mood, decrease stress and anxiety, and foster memory and creativity - all traits that can impact ADHD behavior indirectly.
How often and how long should individuals with ADHD exercise?
As is with the general population, exercise should occur on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes per day. Adults should aim for 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Children and adolescents need at least 6o minutes per day of active play/exercise.
What is the best form of exercise for the individual with ADHD?
Exercise that requires attention to body movement in space, such as gymnastics, aerobic dance, and martial arts. Evidence supporting the role of Tai Chi in reducing the symptoms of ADHD was presented earlier this week at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2010 Annual Meeting. Researcher Dr. Peng Pang found that the practice of Tai Chi improved hyperactivity, ADHD index scores, and cognitive skills of adolescent subjects who participated in these exercises for 6 weeks during a summer respite program.
Although exercise that requires "mindful" movements may be of particular benefit to the individual with ADHD, any form of exercise that is enjoyable and that can be maintained as part of a healthy lifestyle is encouraged for its other health benefits. It should also be noted that exercise should be part of a combination of approaches that manage and treat ADHD symptoms. Individuals affected by ADHD are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns regarding the disorder with their personal physician or health care professional.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
HelpGuide.org "ADD/ADHD Treatment and Help," Block, J and Smith, M.
Medscape Medical News, May 26, 2010, "Tai Chi May Improve Some ADHD Symptoms," Helwick, C.