ADHD Exercise and Fitness

By: Jon Andersen and Richard Rogers, Ph.D.

 ADHD Fitness Specialist

People with ADHD often struggle with starting an exercise program, maintaining a routine, and/or finding truly effective assistance with learning how to exercise and sustain their physical and mental fitness. They may not know or understand the need for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise in order to achieve their goals – be those about physical shape, strength, or general fitness. They may not know how different kinds of exercises can impact their ADHD symptoms. And, they may find the very characteristics of ADHD which they hope to mitigate through exercise are the same characteristics that make it difficult for them to start and/or maintain an effective exercise routine. An ADHD Fitness Specialist, as devised by Rogers Therapy, PLLC is an expert in exercise, and in teaching fitness, and has a profound understanding ADHD. They adhere to the same principles that guide Rogers Therapy, PLLC in all of their work with ADHD – they are experts in their specialty and they work with the positive characteristics of ADHD to help their ADHD clients’ achieve success.

 

Developing an Effective Exercise Routine

Research indicates that exercise is clearly good “medicine” for treating ADHD related conditions. But, engaging in a fully effective exercise routine is often difficult for all kinds of people, and is often very difficult for someone with ADHD. Without someone leading and teaching, the risk of injury is greater, and it is not uncommon for people to engage in the same aerobic workout day after day, and never incorporate any anaerobic exercise, such as strength training into their routines. These limited, repetitive, one sided routines often lead a person to abandon exercise because it is boring and the physical and mental results are so limited.

Developing a truly effective exercise routine requires: learning various  exercises – both aerobic and anaerobic, planning, organizing, record keeping, time management, task initiation, and transitioning from planning to action – all cognitive skills that are often the most affected by ADHD.  And, are frequently the very ADHD characteristics that get miss-interpreted by others as evidence of “lack of motivation.” Thus, a person with ADHD my lack the ability to design and engage in an effective exercise routine, and unfortunately may find that those they turn to for help (PE teachers, sports coaches, personal trainers) are not able to provide appropriate guidance because they lack a sound understanding of ADHD.

Linking Exercise to Cognitive Function

To understand how exercise affects specific cognitive functions, one must first understand the differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Exercises that require a great deal of oxygen to generate energy are referred to as aerobic and include: running, power walking, swimming, and cycling – “endurance” is a key outcome of aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercises rely on multiple sources of energy and result in the development of strength, speed and power.

Research into the effects of exercise on ADHD, indicate that both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can significantly reduce the negative symptoms of ADHD.  Studies that looked at the specific effects of anaerobic and aerobic exercise on cognitive function, concluded that both
helped increase attention – but exercise that involved precise movements such as those involved in strength training, or rock climbing appear to activate multiple areas of brain function, including those that are most frequently associated with ADHD:  timing, sequencing, evaluation of consequences, inhibition, intense focus and concentration.

 Benefits of Regular Exercise

Innumerable studies have examined the benefits of exercise on adults, teens, and children and have contributed to our common knowledge that regular physical activity improves overall health.  It is a highly effective means of controlling weight, preventing multiple health concerns, improving mood, increasing energy, improving sleep, reducing stress, improving self-esteem, increasing bone strength, improving body shape, etc.

Thus, many symptoms related to ADHD, such as: poor self-esteem, sleep difficulties, and excessive stress can be effectively be addressed by regularly engaging in exercise.  Reason enough to consider exercise as a sound treatment for ADHD. But, add in the cognitive benefits (improved attention, timing, sequencing, intense concentration, etc.) and an effective exercise program developed with the guidance of an expert in exercise, and in teaching fitness, and who has a profound understanding ADHD becomes the ideal non-medical treatment for ADHD.

 

Resources

The Exercise  Prescription for ADHD, Michael Lara, MD, Attention magazine, June 2012

Martial Arts Have  Positive Effect on Boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,     Matthew

Morand, Psy.D, www.tsk.com/site/programs/adhd.php

Mental Gymnastics Increase Bicep Strength, New Scientist, November 2001

Children with Attention  Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park, Journal of Attention     Disorders, December 2009

CHADD, Understanding     ADHD, www.chadd.org

Exercise as a Treatment     for ADHD, David Rabiner, www.sharpbrains.com

Exercise and ADHD     Symptoms, Keath Low, www.about.com