Restless, fidgety behavior is a sign of ADHD. Hence, children with ADHD struggle to sit still for prolonged periods of time. Physical exercise is extremely helpful for these children to let go of that restless energy. Staying physically active also helps them focus better, be less impulsive, and improve social skills. This allows the child to have higher ability to learn in the classroom. It is recommended that kids exercise for a minimum of an hour every day, whether it is swimming, running, or playing soccer.
Physical Exercise and Dopamine
When kids exercise, there is a change in the neurotransmitters that their brain releases. Dopamine, which is one of the neurotransmitters, is related to attention span. The medicines used for treating ADHD functions similarly by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain, which is why physical activity has many similar effects on kids with ADHD as stimulant drugs. Studies have shown that children with ADHD who exercises regularly have a better performance when it comes to attention span and impulsivity.
Physical exercise impacts children’s brains in the following ways:
- Increases the amount of blood flowing to the brain. Kids with ADHD have lesser blood flow to the areas of their brain that is linked to thinking, planning, emotions, and behavior.
- Improves the blood vessels and structure of the brain that improves ability to think.
- There is an increased activity in parts of the brain that is responsible for behavior and attention.
How Exercise Affects Thinking and Behavior
Many kids with ADHD face difficulties in executive function, which is essentially problem-solving skills used to organize and plan. The lack of these skills makes it a challenge for kids with ADHD to remember to complete their homework or pack his bag after school. Physical exercise has been shown to help improve the executive function in these children.
Physical exercise also improves the social skills of many kids with ADHD. In school, kids who exercise regularly are less likely to engage in disruptive behaviors such as hitting and low participation in activities.
Apart from cognitive benefits, there are also many health benefits of exercising, such as a reduced risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Regular physical activity also strengthens muscles, increases endurance, and promotes blood flow to major organs. Engaging in various sport activities will also allow the kid to use up any excess energy they have remaining. This allows them to be calmer and hence perform better in social situations.
Physical exercise comes in various forms. Whether to place your child in competitive or recreational activities depends on their preferences, as they thrive better in an environment that is more comfortable for them. Exercise can also be done at home, incorporated in short customized twenty-minute segments.