ADHD can cause students to have trouble staying focused and impedes their academic performance. For about two thirds of those suffering from ADHD, prescription drugs may bring some relief of symptoms, but the side effects can be severe. New studies show that exercise can help to relieve the symptoms of ADHD for many students and help them excel academically.
Exercise as an alternate ADHD medication
The Pediatrics research journal recently published the results of a study which showed that children who exercised regularly displayed improved brain function and cognitive performance. Their executive functions improved and they even scored better on their tests, especially for math and reading comprehension.
Executive functions are essential in combating the symptoms of ADHD as they allow the student to resist distraction. An improved executive function will allow students to maintain focus and will improve their working memory. Executive functions also govern a student’s ability to move from one task to another which is called cognitive flexibility.
John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, has suggested that exercise be prescribed as a medication to combat the effects of ADHD because it causes the release of dopamine and serotonin. These two ‘feel good’ hormones boost academic performance and improve mood. “Think of exercise as medication,” says Ratey. “For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ADD), it may actually be a replacement for stimulants, but, for most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”
Exercise also has a wealth of benefits that go beyond the classroom and it has no bad side effects! The biggest problem for most parents is getting sedentary students away from TVs and computer screens and outdoors where they can exercise.
Get your kids moving!
The best way to get your kids moving is to make it fun rather than a chore. You can take walks around your neighborhood; just 30 minutes four times a week will do the trick. Encourage your kids to participate in outdoor activities and get them to join a club or sports team, bike to school and go for hikes on the weekend. Be a good example for your children and find fun and exciting ways to get them moving every day.
There are many local resources for parents like Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign which offers parents advice on how to get their kids moving. The British Heart Foundation offers tips on how to encourage exercise and how much exercise children need. Canadian families can get a tax cut called the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit. Parents can claim up to $1000 per child for expenses related to fitness, sports and exercise.