Exercise as it relates to Disease/Exercise to Alleviate ADHD Symptoms in Children

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Characterised by it’s hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattentive behavior, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood psychological disorders. It affects around 3-7% of all school-aged children (aged 6–12),[1][2][3][4] and it has been shown that up to 50% of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to display symptoms well into their adulthood.[2][4]


Children diagnosed with ADHD are known to be associated with organizational problems, inability to concentrate for long periods of time, and negative behavioural symptoms. All of which can impact their performance at school and lead to an increased rate of disciplinary problems at school, causing an increased amount of negative criticism from parents and teachers.[2][3][4][5] Currently, the most commonly prescribed treatment for ADHD is a medication known as methylphenidate, and it has been found to be only moderately effective.[1][3] However, not all children respond favourably with many experiencing side effects such as high blood pressure, sleep difficulties, or mood disturbances.[3] Thus, there is great interest in other methods of managing ADHD in children.[3] Hence, the rapid growing interest in the possibility that sport and exercise can have an effect on a number of cognition-related variables, especially in children.[5]


Many studies have proven that short bouts (5–15 minutes) of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise can significantly improve the negative behavioural symptoms associated with children diagnosed with ADHD.[2][4][5] In addition to the increases in strength and motor skill development that we all know regular physical activity brings about, regular physical activity in any individual is also shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.[1][2][5] A few other studies have also gone to show that aerobic exercise and meditative practices, like yoga and tai chi, can also positively impact those diagnosed with ADHD. They reported that following a session in aerobic exercise, yoga or tai chi, children with ADHD showed significant reductions in hyperactivity and daydreaming levels, and increases in attention [6][7]

Therefore, many professionals are now strongly recommending regular physical activity, no matter the intensity, as it can be highly beneficial to those with ADHD, whether it’s used in conjunction with other treatment methods, such as medication, or without for those who don’t respond well to medicative forms of treatment.[4]

Further reading[edit]

  1. Exercise Helps Children with ADHD in Study [1]
  2. Exercise as a Tool for Managing ADHD [2]


  1. a b c Robinson, A, Hopkins, M & Bucci, D 2011, ‘Effects of Physical Exercise on ADHD-Like Behavior in Male and Female Adolescent Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats’, Developmental Psychobiology, pp. 383-390.
  2. a b c d e Kostrzewa, R & Archer, T 2012, ‘Physical Exercise Alleviates ADHD Symptoms: Regional Deficits and Development Trajectory’, Neurotox Res, no. 21, pp. 195-209.
  3. a b c d e Tantillo, M, Kesick, C, Hynd, G & Dishman, R 2002, ‘The Effects of Exercise on Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’, Medical Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 203-212.
  4. a b c d e Gapin, J, Labban, J & Etnier, J 2011, ‘The Effects of Physical Activity on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms: The Evidence’, Preventive Medicine, no. 52, pp. 70-74.
  5. a b c d Verret, C, Guay, MC, Berthianume, C, Gardiner, P & Beliveau, L 2012, ‘A Physical Activity Program Improves Behavior and Cognitive Functions in Children With ADHD: An Exploratory Study’, Journal of Attention Disorders, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 71-80.
  6. Field, T 2012, ‘Exercise Research on Children and Adolescents’, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, no. 18, pp. 54-59.
  7. Best, J 2010, ‘Effects of Physical Activity on Children’s Executve Function: Contributions of Experimental Research on Aerobic Exercise’, Developmental Review, no. 30, pp. 331-351.