About 25 years ago, my nephew was diagnosed with ADHD and several other behavioral disorders. Back then these disorders were barely being studied by medical professionals. Very little was known and very little was done. Today, children with ADHD are in a much better position. Even though the specific causes of ADHD are not known, we have learned much about how to curb the symptoms of the disorder. As parents, foster parents and childcare professionals, caring for a child with a hyperactivity disorder can be stressful and challenging.
John Ratay, MD, is an associate clinical professor at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ratay has been exploring the connection between exercise and brain performance since the 1980’s and is the author of Spark” The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Exercise can help ADHD by elevating levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, brain chemicals that play key roles in attention and thinking. “It’s the same thing many medications given for ADHD do,” Ratey says. What’s more, it’s inexpensive — the only cost may be some equipment or lessons and time.
However, Ratey says that he’s not “anti-medicine” by any means — it’s just that exercise can be a major component of treatment for ADHD. “It really helps modulate many of the symptoms of attention deficit disorders,” he says.
Exercise is also a mood lifter, which makes people less tense and fidgety and more motivated and rejuvenated, which is exactly what children with ADHD need, Ratey says. It can make them more willing to learn.
The amount of exercise needed to improve ADHD symptoms can vary from child to child, but children should get some vigorous playing time — not playing on their computer — each day, Ratey says. “It’s not easy, but the best thing is for the parent to get the child up and do exercises right away before school,” he says. “Exercise gets their attention system firing away, and it can have an effect for a couple of hours, maybe even all morning for some.” This is why, he adds, some teachers start their school day with a physical activity.
The following activities are most beneficial:
Since some kids with ADHD have difficulty with team sports because of their difficulty with social behavior. You should try to encourage your child to play in group activities. Kids with ADHD also can benefit from exercises which increase strength and power and build muscles also called anaerobic exercises.
Anaerobic exercises include: · “Balance training is important because 35 percent of kids who have ADHD also have problems with coordination and balance,” Ratey says. “And by improving your child’s balance, it’s likely his attention system will get a boost as well.”
Whatever your child does, make sure it’s something she likes so she’s sure to continue with it.
The effect of exercise on children with ADHD is extremely underrated, Ratey says, so be sure to get your child moving every day.