Saturday 17 January 2015

What can physical activity do for ADHD?

In answer to the question posed in the title of this post, I might refer you to the paper by Susanne Ziereis & Petra Jansen [1] who concluded that results of their research study looking at the impact of two 12-week training programs "support the hypothesis that long-term PA [physical activity] has a positive effect on executive functions of children with ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder]."
That's the funny thing about birthdays,
they're kind of an annual thing.

With an important starting point that "non-pharmacologic treatment methods would be preferred by parents, children and psychiatrists" when it comes to treating/managing ADHD and its various symptoms, researchers decided to examine whether one or both of two training programs - "a training which focused on the abilities ball handling, balance and manual dexterity" (EG1 group; n=13) and training "in sports without a specific focus" (n=14) - might improve cognitive performance in children diagnosed with ADHD. Said training regimes were compared against a control group (EG2 group; n=16) where no such intervention was used.

Their results based on "assessments of working memory (WM) and motor performance before, immediately after the first training week and one week after the last session" suggested that there may indeed be some merit in physical activity when it comes to various facets of cognitive performance in their cohort. "After the 12-week intervention period, several measures of the EG1 and EG2s significantly improved over time". The no-intervention control group did not fare as well.

This is of course not the first time that physical activity has been suggested to impact on executive functions as per the mega-review by John Best [2] (open-access). I might also throw in a link to a piece I wrote on this blog last year (2014) on the potential benefits of something like kata training when it comes to psychology and behaviour (see here) as another example where one might expect similar positive changes. I'm also minded to point you to the paper by Halleland and colleagues [3] suggesting we should be looking a little harder for those with ADHD and executive function issues who might benefit from such interventions.

It seems that alongside the very obvious physical benefits to be derived from staying active, mind and behaviour also seem to benefit. A sedentary childhood it seems, does little good to anyone. And since we're on the topic of complementary interventions potentially useful for some cases of ADHD, how about looking at nutrition (see here and see here) as well as exercise?

Some music now to complement any activity you might want to try... You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC.


[1] Ziereis S & Jansen P. Effects of physical activity on executive function and motor performance in children with ADHD. Res Dev Disabil. 2015 Jan 2;38C:181-191.

[2] Best JR. Effects of Physical Activity on Children’s Executive Function: Contributions of Experimental Research on Aerobic Exercise. Developmental review : DR 2010;30(4):331-551.

[3] Halleland HB. et al. Occupational Status Is Compromised in Adults With ADHD and Psychometrically Defined Executive Function Deficits. J Atten Disord. 2015 Jan 2. pii: 1087054714564622.

---------- Ziereis S, & Jansen P (2015). Effects of physical activity on executive function and motor performance in children with ADHD. Research in developmental disabilities, 38C, 181-191 PMID: 25561359

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