Monday, June 3, 2013

The ADHD Sports And Fitness Connection. Fact or Myth?

Can sports and physical activity help with ADHD? Is this a fact or just an urban legend? Research from various studies shows that this is not a myth and that it should be given a lot more attention. But let us start at the beginning which is usually a good place!

Is medication failing?

Everyone knows that ADHD seems to be on the increase. The latest CDC figures show that there has been an increase of about 40% in the number of ADHD cases in the last ten years. That is bad enough but some other figures as regards the medication are even more alarming.

A startling report in The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concluded that medication did not seem to make much difference to children’s symptoms in the long term. The research covered a period pf six years but those on medication were not showing signs of improvement compared to their non-medicated peers.

Other studies at the University of Buffalo by Dr. William Pelham and his team came to similar conclusions in that the effects of medications seemed to be wearing off after three years and there was no lasting benefit in the reduction of ADHD symptoms.

Are there better ways of treating ADHD?

Most medical authorities such as the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) have come out strongly in favour of effective parenting skills as being a much more beneficial solution for the child with ADHD. Medication has its place but sometimes a winning strategy is to combine both and then try to taper off the meds as the child improves. But putting effective parenting into place takes time, patience and effort and many parents just do not have the time or the inclination.

Sports and ADHD

One of the ways to improve a child’s ADHD symptoms is to encourage physical activities and sports. Most of the research in this area seems to show that kids after sport are :-
  • Less hyperactive and restless
  • Better able to focus
  • Have a feeling of improved self esteem
  • Increased sense of self confidence.
Dr. David Rabinar of Duke University has reported on research on ADHD and sports. He has mentioned the study done by Kiluk, Weden and Culotta in 2009 which shows that physical activity seems to lessen anxiety and depression symptoms in the children who participated. More research needs to be done.

Studies at the University of Illinois were very interesting. This particular study by Taylor and Kuo found that any type of green time activity (including sports) tended to lessen ADHD symptoms and seemed to correlate with improved concentration and focus afterwards. The green settings were much more beneficial to kids than built up areas, enclosed spaces or shopping malls!

Yet another study led by Matthew Pontifex of the Michigan State University shows that ADHD kids are altogether better focused after just doing one session of exercise. He is convinced that sports and physical activity are the best way forward in treating ADHD without relying too much on medication.

Choosing the right sports for ADHD kids

Which sports might be right for your child? A lot will depend on their likes, dislikes and general fitness. Kids who might want to play baseball may not excel here because they are too easily distracted. That applies to other team sports too.

More popular choices tend to be in the martial arts areas where if they can follow the simple instructions, they can get pleasure and gratification fast. I know that karate and tae kwon do are very popular right now.

Let us not forget individual sports such as weightlifting, horse riding and swimming where distraction does not affect your team’s results. Horse riding fits in nicely with equine therapy because the child can become much more involved with the animal. Pet therapy in general is gaining in popularity as an alternative ADHD treatment.

What is the next step?

Any physical activity is great for kids. It helps them avoid obesity and diabetes in later life. As we have seen, there are enormous benefits for ADHD children although more research needs to be done. But in the meanwhile, we are offering a much healthier alternative which has no harmful side effects. Sports also help kids socialise, helps them to integrate socially and above all will help them to detach from their electronic devices.

Author Bio:

Robert Locke MBE is an award winning author and has written extensively on ADHD and related child health problems. His new book on 'Facts About ADHD Children – Tips On ADHD Parenting’ has just been published. Click here to get a FREE copy from June 1 thru June 3.