Exercise Is Important In Managing ADHD

For a student diagnosed with an Attention Deficit Disorder, doing routine tasks such as daily chores, grooming, class work and homework can be boring.  These activities are done virtually every day, take time, and may seem difficult to do since they may offer little excitement or stimulation that an ADD brain may crave.  Studies have shown that for people with ADD, the pattern of blood flow to the brain tends to be slower, and that activity was found in different regions than for those without ADD.

The Effect Of Exercise On The Brain

As we know, physical activity is great for the body, but did you know that it is also great for the brain?  Physical activity that requires coordination, as well as complex movements, like dance, martial arts, basketball, to name a few, bring about connections that form between neurons in the cerebellum, the region of the brain that controls motor coordination.  It also plays a role in analyzing the visual signals associated with movement.

  • Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which stimulates the release of growth factors and brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).  This is the substance your brain loves!  BDNF promotes growth of new neurons (brain cells), which keeps the brain operating efficiently.
  • Strenuous workouts and prolonged exercise raise the bloodstream levels of endorphins, which are naturally occurring opiates.  Endorphins boost the feelings of well being and diminish pain and thus, regular exercise can help alleviate depression and anxiety.
  • A good brisk walk can raise the levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that regulates motivation, sensations of reward, and attention span.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, practicing psychiatrist, founder of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health, and author of Driven to Distraction suggests that one must consider exercise as an “essential component of treatment” for ADD.  It has been found that exercise contributes to a person’s ability to find sustaining attention and mental focus for extended periods of time and makes these tasks easier.


Do Not Punish The Misbehaving ADHD Student By Restricting Exercise “Fun”

For a student with ADD who misbehaves in the school setting, missing recess or having detention as discipline is not a good idea. The student’s penalty should be something that is physically active and productive.  This may take parents collaborating with the school to find an appropriate means to manage misbehaviors.  In addition, students with ADD should be allowed to be involved with school sports, and to the extent possible poor academic performance should not be a determining factor of whether or not they can participate.

How Much Exercise?

30 minutes a day is a good amount of time for exercise.  A brisk walk will do.  No need to run 5 miles, go to the gym, or lift weights.  Perhaps walking home from school is a viable option. Taking a walk after dinner with a parent or a friend will be the boost your brain will love!

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