Can exercise help with ADHD?


Can exercise help with ADHD?

It’s common knowledge that exercise is important to the mind and body in myriad different ways, and one of its emerging roles is in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Tidelands Health sports medicine physician Dr. Darwin McKnight, a Cleveland Clinic-trained physician who has conducted extensive research into the topic, says randomized controlled trials and observational studies have demonstrated that exercise can help relieve at least some symptoms of ADHD.
Although physical activity may not replace traditional medications for the condition, it can serve as a useful complement that can help improve attention and mood, he says.

How it helps

So how does exercise help with ADHD? The answer is in how exercise influences brain chemicals, says Dr. McKnight, who practices at Tidelands Health Orthopedics at The Market Common.
“Physical activity increases dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels in the brain,” says Dr. McKnight. “These chemicals impact the brain’s ability to focus and pay attention, which can be difficult for people with ADHD.”
He says there is little reason not to try exercising to see if it helps with the symptoms of ADHD, though it’s best to check with a qualified care provider first to ensure exercise is safe.

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Even if people don’t have ADHD, it’s still important to be active, he says.
Not only can exercise reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and other conditions, it can improve your mood and help you feel better about life.
“You don’t need to be a marathon runner or hardcore athlete to experience the benefits of exercise,” he says. “Regular 30-minute walks can help immensely.
“If you have children, help your kids find activities they enjoy, which will help them stick with it and can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy activity.”

Meet the Expert

Dr. Darwin McKnight

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