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. We have also added 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.

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Research shows that 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. Medical and scientific research have found this to help reduce behavioral symptoms in children with ADD and ADHD. The list contains useful information on 5 ways exercise improves ADD and ADHD and more.

Research Studies

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 were published in the Journal of Pediatrics (October 2014, VOLUME 134 / ISSUE 4). The study 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. This study made use of “behavioral and electrophysiological measures of brain function to quantify and record the enhanced attentional inhibition and cognitive flexibility.” The children who participated in the study were ages 7-9.

In 2009, Jennifer I. Gapin, Ph.D. published Associations Among Physical Activity, ADHD Symptoms, and Executive Function in Children with ADHD. Her study found stimulants (like Adderall and Ritalin) are the first thing doctors prescribe for children with ADD or ADHD. The problem with these medications is that they don’t always work. She went on to say that physical activity might be able to alter neurobiological deficiencies and fundamental executive function. Thus, regular physical exercise may be able to reduce the psychosocial impact and the severity of symptoms associated with ADHD.

Dr. Robert Myers, Ph.D. is a child psychologist with over 35 years’ experience in the field of ADD/ADHD. He is an expert on children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities. If you are like most parents of an ADD/ADHD child, you know only too well the many challenges this type of child presents. As part of his research, Dr. Myers has identified exercises that need a combination of physical activity and thought. These activities can dramatically improve brain function and strengthen neural pathways within the ADHD child’s brain.

Here Are 5 Examples of his many exercises to improve ADD and ADHD

Physical Fitness Exercises

Strength and Resistance Training

Strength and resistance training can prove to be very beneficial for those with ADD/ADHD. Keep in mind children should only perform these exercises with the right supervision. The person exercising must also follow the correct form. Because failure to do so will not help them achieve their goals and they could easily injure themselves. Learning how to implement the “muscle-mind” connection can improve the brain’s ability to focus. This occurs not only in the gym but also outside of the gym.

Games of All Types Make Excellent Exercises
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 and concentration. It also helps with the development of logical thought and a sense of humor.

Mazes and Seeking Games

Physical mazes and any series of activities that your child must perform 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. Another fun exercise that requires both reasoning and physical activity is an obstacle course. Try to set up a course that requires your child to think about how best to overcome each obstacle. It doesn’t need to be overly challenging at first, but you can always add to the challenge later. The physical activity side should be age-appropriate. Build it in a way that makes your child work at the obstacles rather than just blow through them. It might take a while for you to determine what works best. These types of exercise improve ADD and ADHD and are a lot of fun at the same time.

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. These activities also provide plenty of aerobic exercise.

Sports Games and Exercise that Improves ADD and ADHD

Paddleball, Table Tennis, 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. These sports require quick movement and agility as they help develop concentration and motor skills. They will also help provide lots of aerobic exercise.

Working out in the gym can also help those with ADD and ADHD. Each exercise or piece of equipment they use will have its own set of exercises and rules they must follow. You should work with a personal trainer who has the training and certification required to work with special needs children. At Special Strong, our trainers are fully National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT). They are also Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainers.

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

About Special Strong

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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