Physical activity may help kids with ADHD do well in school

by Jose Beede

Physical activity may help kids with ADHD do well in school

New research from Michigan State University revealed that physical activity may help kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) perform well in school. The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics, discusses how affected children might be able to focus better on a specific task after exercising, as compared to their concentration following sedentary activities. 

Symptoms can start in early childhood
Approximately one in every ten school-age children in the United States is diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This neurobehavioral disorder usually first presents itself in childhood and, depending on the individual, can last into adulthood. Some of the most common symptoms include difficulty staying focused, paying attention, controlling impulse behaviors and being overly active.

The study's investigators observed 40 children between the ages of 8 and 10, who were assigned to either spend 20 minutes walking quickly on a treadmill or to read while sitting. Half of the participants were previously diagnosed with ADHD. After their specified activity, they were instructed to take a short exam of reading comprehension and math problems, as well as play a computer game that assessed their ability to ignore visual stimuli.

Exercise helps focus
The researchers found that all children who exercised beforehand performed better on both tests. In particular, the kids with ADHD did well on tasks that are normally difficult for individuals with the condition.

"This provides some very early evidence that exercise might be a tool in our non-pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD," said Matthew Pontifex, MSU assistant professor of kinesiology, who led the study. "Maybe our first course of action that we would recommend to developmental psychologists would be to increase children’s physical activity."

Talk to a professional
For new parents, it may be had to tell if your child has the signs and symptoms of ADHD during baby development. In many cases, it's normal for kids to have trouble paying attention and behaving the way they're supposed to all the time. However, some red flags can include daydreaming a lot, not listening, being easily distracted from an activity, forgetting things, being unable to stay seated, talking too much and having trouble taking turns with other children, according to the CDC.

Concerned parents should consult a healthcare provider if they notice any behaviors that may be caused by ADHD. A clinician can then perform several different assessments to determine whether or not the the child is affected. If he or she is, the condition is usually best treated with behavioral therapy and medication. However, all children are different and the condition can range in severity, so treatment will most likely be adjusted for a specific individual and may have to be altered over time.

Have you had or been related to a child diagnosed with ADHD? What were his or her symptoms? Did treatment help improve the condition? Leave your answers in the comments section!