ADHD

Updated 12 July 2017

Exercise before school may reduce ADHD symptoms

Paying attention all day in school as a kid isn’t easy, especially for those who are at a higher risk of ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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A new study from Michigan State University and University of Vermont researchers shows that offering daily before-school, aerobic activities to younger at-risk children could help in reducing the symptoms of ADHD in the classroom and at home.

Signs of ADHD

Signs can include inattentiveness, moodiness and difficulty getting along with others.

The study can be found in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

“Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD,” said Alan Smith, chairperson of MSU’s Department of Kinesiology, who conducted the research along with lead author Betsy Hoza, a psychologist from the University of Vermont.

Read: ADHD in the classroom

Previous MSU research has shown improved brain function and better math and reading skills in elementary students who were exposed to a bout of physical activity. Yet, it’s not as widely known how consistent exercise might improve the broad range of symptoms and impairments associated with the disorder.


Broader benefits

Over a 12-week period, Smith and Hoza studied about 200 early elementary school students ranging from kindergarten to second grade that either exhibited signs of ADHD or didn’t. During the trial, students were randomly selected to participate in a group that completed moderate to vigorous physical activity each day before school, or a group that completed more sedentary classroom-type activities.

“Although our findings indicated that all participants showed improvements, children with ADHD risk receiving exercise benefited across a broader range of outcomes than those receiving the sedentary activities,” Smith said.

Read: The ABC of ADHD

Smith indicated that further studies are needed to better understand the frequency and amount of physical activity that can provide benefits to children and added that the effects of exercise may be different based on a child’s age.

“Despite the number of remaining questions, physical activity appears to be a promising intervention method for ADHD with well-known benefits to health overall,” he said. “This gives schools one more good reason to incorporate physical activity into the school day.”

Read more:

Assessment of ADHD
Diagnosing ADHD
Treating ADHD

Image: Children doing exercise from Shutterstock

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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