The Journal of Pediatrics recently published a study indicating that kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD may be helped by the addition of exercise to their treatment program. The study found that after exercise, kids with ADHD have an increased ability to drown out the normal distractions of the day and focus on a single task. The findings show that exercise may help overall to reduce “inhibitory control”, which according Science News, is the main challenge faced by people with the disorder. Matthew Pontifex, the MSU Assistant Professor of Kinesiology who led the study, said “This provides some very early evidence that exercise might be a tool in our non-pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD. Maybe our first course of action that we would recommend to developmental psychologists would be to increase children’s physical activity.”
The research, funded by the National Child Health and Human Development, found tested kids with ADHD and those without it by asking them to walk briskly on a treadmill while reading or while seated, and then having them complete a reading comprehension and math test. Finally, the children were asked to play a computer game that required them to complete a task while ignoring outside stimuli. While all kids performed better on the tests after exercising, the kids who had ADHD had more control in avoiding repeated mistakes and slowing down to do things right – a common challenge among many ADHD kids.
Although exercise is helpful for all kids, many schools are cutting physical education programs and even recess due to regular budget cuts. With this and upcoming research from other institutions, Pontifex hopes that schools can better justify why funding is needed to keep physical educational programs around for all students, while scientists continue to work out more effective non-pharmaceutical treatments for kids with ADHD.