Exercise and ADHD. Don’t Forget Gym Class!

yoga kidsMany of you are busy setting up your child’s home school schedule.  Your dining room has become a classroom.  Your child’s school schedule is in front of the computer with a series of Zoom meetings.  It is easy for all of us to get distracted sitting in front of a screen.  Just imagine how difficult it is for your child with ADHD.

Exercise is an essential part of everyone’s daily schedule.  But it is important now more than ever to make certain you have “Gym Class” scheduled into your child’s routine.

The Washington Post cited a study completed in 2009 in which “researchers found that as little as 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise at 60% of maximum heart rate improves academic performance in children – immediately.”

Pre-adolescent kids walked on a treadmill for 20 minutes and afterward were administered cognitive tests. (The pace was easy enough that no child dropped out).

The conclusion was that “single, acute bouts of moderately intense aerobic exercise may improve the cognitive control of attention” for at least 60 minutes afterward.

Therefore, we know that exercise can help all students.  However, what about students with ADHD.  Could the impact be even more significant?

In a 2020 study, children ages 11 to 16 with ADHD who cycled for 20 minutes at moderate intensity showed improvements in staying on task for at least 60 minutes after they exercised.

Matthew Pontifex, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Michigan State University and lead author of the 2012 study, says that those with ADHD normally have difficulty monitoring and controlling off-task behaviors.

But after exercise, “they were better able to regulate their behaviors … and were better able to institute corrective actions.”

Not only can exercise help your child with ADHD perform better on academic tasks, but it can also help your child with impulsive behaviors.  Inhibitory control is a part of executive function and can be very difficult for children with ADHD.  That ability to stop, think, and then act is often a challenge.

By scheduling exercise into your daily routine, your child may be better able to focus more on his lesson and control that impulse to search for a favorite YouTube video, start playing an online game, or simply walk away.

Less impulsivity means less redirection from you and the teacher, so you may want to rethink your daily schedule to fit in exercise breaks throughout. Is there time to do a quick walk first thing in the morning?  Perhaps a quick yoga break between classes?  Or can you just run outside and throw a ball or Frisbee together for a few minutes?  Get creative and have your child provide some ideas that they would like to do in order to increase physical activity throughout the school day.  The entire family will benefit!

Play Attention improves executive function and impulse control. Call 800-788-6786 to chat with one of our attention specialists and learn how we can customize a program for you.