Two boys running and jumping

The Surprising Benefits of Exercise for Kids with ADHD

As a parent of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you’re always looking for ways to help them manage their symptoms and thrive. What if something as simple as physical exercise could make a big difference? A recent meta-analysis found that regular exercise can significantly improve several key areas for kids with ADHD. The study*, conducted by Yu Zang from Nanjing University in China, analyzed data from 14 different studies involving 574 children with ADHD. The kids were divided into two groups: one that participated in regular physical activity and a control group that did not. The results were eye-opening. 

Improved mood and behavior

One of the most exciting findings was that exercise helped reduce anxiety and depression in kids with ADHD. As Zang explains, “This current meta-analysis showed with evidence, that physical exercise has a major contribution owing to significant improvement in anxiety and depression, aggressive behaviors, thought and social problems among children suffering from ADHD.” The study also found that physical activity led to significant improvements in thought problems, social problems, and aggressive behaviors. In other words, exercise didn’t just make the kids feel better. It helped them think and interact better too. 

Boosting focus and skills

While the improvements in mood and behavior were impressive, the study also looked at ADHD’s core symptoms. Zang found that hyperactive/impulsive symptoms and inattention were reduced in the exercise group, although the results weren’t statistically significant. The kids who exercised also showed gains in strength, agility, and performance. Additionally, there were improvements on cognitive tests like the Stroop color-word test.

Getting kids moving

So how can you get your children with ADHD moving? Zang recommends incorporating physical exercise into their daily routine. The key is finding activities they enjoy, whether it’s sports, dance, or just playing at the park. The benefits of exercise go beyond ADHD too. As Zang notes, “Improvement in the academic field, ADHD children with healthier outcomes, can easily adapt and cope with normal children without ADHD, and would further contribute to the progress of a community, a country, or a continent.” 

In summary, this meta-analysis provides evidence that physical exercise should be part of any ADHD treatment plan. By getting our kids moving, we can help improve their mood, behavior, focus, and overall well-being.

*Zang, Y. (2019). “Impact of physical exercise on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders.” Medicine, 98(46), e17980. 

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