The medicinal benefits of exercise in children with ADHD

By Liz Dawson, Accredited Exercise Physiologist & Pilates Instructor

Exercise- If you could bottle it up and sell it as a pill, people around the world with a range of disorders and medical conditions would buy it in the truck load. Exercise has been scientifically proven to treat the symptoms of medical conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School says; “Think of exercise as medication. For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ADD), it may actually be a replacement for stimulants but, for most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”

The endorphin release produced by exercise improves mood whilst switching on the brains ‘attention department’, making it easier for kids to concentrate, memorize and be productive in the class room. It also causes children to be less impulsive making them ready to learn.

For children with ADHD, whose dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels are in low supply, being active helps elevate these levels enabling them to sustain attention and focus for longer periods.

Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Liz Dawson has witness through her work with Kids Heart Pilates, the benefits of exercise in children, as they build confidence through improved coordination, agility and balance.

“One of the notable characteristics of a child with ADHD is self-doubt and an inclination towards failure.

“Exercise helps reduce this attitude by increasing their confidence, changing their outlook and improving their physical ability to be involved in group activity”

“Pilates is particularly beneficial for ADHD because it is heavily focused on mindfulness and paying close attention to the movement of the body, helping children to relax and take a moment to explore what the body can do. In saying that, it is more of a complimentary exercise to more intense physical activity, where children can really exert their energy and get their silly’s out” says Ms Dawson.

In short, getting involved in a physical activity that your child enjoys, will provide them with a raft of social, emotional and physical benefits. It doesn’t have to be an intense competitive sport, just 20 minutes a day of exercise will improve their mood, outlook and confidence.