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5 Ways Exercise Improves ADD and ADHD

5 Ways Exercise Improves ADD and ADHD

Do you or someone you know have ADD or ADHD?  Here are 5 ways exercise improves ADD and ADHD and some interesting facts about how exercises can help reduce the symptoms associated with ADD and ADHD.

Movement and exercise have therapeutic benefits beyond the improvement of fitness. Physical activity and exercise increase circulation and the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Exercise increases the release of endorphins including serotonin, and acetylcholine which have been shown to reduce the behavioral symptoms in children with ADD and ADHD.  The list is exhaustive of how exercise improves ADD and ADHD.

Recent research suggests that more exercise performed by ADHD children may result in more calming effects. The results of a controlled study of 221 ADHD children published in the Journal of Pediatrics (October 2014, VOLUME 134 / ISSUE 4) found that physical activity had “measurable positive effects on (the) children’s cognitive performance and brain structure and function.” The children participated in structured and monitored after-school fitness programs and the study used “behavioral and electrophysiological measures of brain function to quantify and record the enhanced attentional inhibition and cognitive flexibility” among the children ages 7-9.

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Dr. Robert Myers is a child psychologist and expert in children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities. Dr. Myers has identified exercises that require a combination of physical activity and thought that can dramatically improve brain function and strengthen neural pathways within the ADHD child’s brain. Examples include:

  1. Strength and resistance training. With correct form and supervision, strength and resistance training can be very beneficial for ADD/ADHD.  Learning how to implement the “muscle-mind” connection can improve the brains ability to focus not only in the gym but outside of the gym.
  2. Storytelling Games. Role-Playing activities involving stories and games combined with physical acting out of the characters. This activity requires only a book or storyline and imagination. A pirate, princess, dinosaur or any character that you and your child choose to act out. This role-play activity combined with the physical acting out improves memory, concentration and the development of logical thought and sense of humor.
  3. Mazes and Seeking Games. Physical mazes and any series of activities that are performed in a sequence are beneficial. A simple game of Hide and Seek combines reasoning and activity and improves concentration, thought processing speed and visual-motor skills.
  4. Dancing and Dancing Games. Dancing and dancing classes require specific moves and movement patterns. These are structured movement classes including gymnastics or martial arts. You can achieve a similar result at home with “sequenced” dance video games like those available for game systems with colored dance mats. The child must match the colors and movements on the screen with movement to colored sections of the mat. Dance, dancing games and classes like gymnastics and martial arts improve concentration, sequencing, coordinated motor integration while providing aerobic exercise.
  5. Paddleball, table tennis, and racquet sports. Remember the little rubber ball on the end of a long rubber band attached to a wooden paddle? Paddleball is a fun activity that improves concentration and coordination. As your child ages and skills improve, introduce table tennis and later racquet sports that require quick movement and agility as they will provide aerobic exercise while requiring concentration and motor skills.

If you want to experience how exercise improves ADD and ADHD, contact us here to set up a consultation.


Special Strong provides fitness and nutrition for special needs children, adolescents, and adults with autism and other disabilities. Through our online training platform, we also provide special needs fitness certification courses for personal trainers and service providers who want to work autism and other disabilities.

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