In the vibrant city of Mumbai, where every day brings new experiences, there are exercises waiting to help children with ADHD. In this blog, we have discussed in detail how exercises can make a difference in managing ADHD and set off on a journey toward better well-being.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects one’s ability to concentrate, control impulses, and manage hyperactivity. A diagnosis of ADHD is usually made after the age of 4.
To diagnose the disorder, a RCI registered clinical psychologist/clinical psychology associate/Psy.D will take a comprehensive evaluation of the child. This includes details of the child’s prenatal and perinatal history, medical and physical history, and developmental history. The psychologist would also use rating scales to ensure a more holistic overview of the diagnosis.
The first line treatments for managing ADHD include pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. However, including regular physical activity into a child's routine can be a valuable complementary strategy for managing these symptoms. Physical exercise is one that doesn’t have many negative side effects; it is a do-no-harm activity. Parents can give this a sure shot as it would greatly help their children.
Research has suggested that physically active kids with ADHD show enhanced cognitive performance and brain functioning. A 9 month study suggested children showed higher executive control, focus, resistance of distraction and maintenance of focus, working memory, and flexibility between tasks when they were part of a regular exercise routine. Another study found that a 12-week exercise program improved reading test scores and maths scores in children with ADHD. Just 30 minutes of activity can help with the symptoms commonly associated with ADHD in children.
Research has also suggested low levels of dopamine in brains with ADHD. This is often treated using stimulating medication. However, the same neurotransmitter is released during exercise.
Recommended activities and exercises
These include activities such as running, cycling, swimming, and hula hooping. They help to get the heart rate up and stimulate the release of neurotransmitters associated with attention and focus. These activities can also help kids burn off their excess energy and improve their mental focus. Some specific activities that aid coordination and accuracy include the floor is lava, hopscotch, and HORSE basketball games.
Setting up a fun up-tempo song can allow children to burn off their energy by engaging in dance moves. It is also a great way to promote family bonding.
Kung fu and taekwondo allow children to have a structured environment where they can hone their mental focus. They can also learn discipline, respect, and self-control. Martial arts can also be attractive to children with ADHD due to their diverse moves. It can also be beneficial to parents as they can be practised at home and require little to no equipment.
Yoga and mindfulness
Yoga helps children learn deep breathing and mindfulness, and can be done with parents. Children with ADHD can be prone to developing anxiety as a result of hyperactive thoughts or sensory stimulation. Thus, yoga can help them to regulate their emotions, impulses, and manage stress. Yoga and mindfulness also allows for a release of dopamine in the brain.
Simple bodyweight exercises or resistance training can allow for development of muscle coordination and control, which can aid motor skill difficulties. This would initially require adult supervision, or can be introduced to older children. Strength training also helps children build confidence and goal-oriented mindsets.
Basketball, soccer, tennis allow children to learn the value of teamwork, while interacting with peers or neighbourhood children. These games give children an opportunity to have a structured physical activity with constant action and reaction involved with passing a ball around.
Biking, hiking, and nature walks
These activities are great bonding moments for children with ADHD with their parents and siblings. Through these activities, they are able to burn off excess energy and explore their environments. They can also be part of calming and peaceful environments that can help with ADHD symptoms.
Children love parks with jungle gyms, slides, and swings. These spaces allow them to run around, explore, and make new friends. It can also be a great way to get children out of their houses and away from their screens.
Home based activities
Setting up a trampoline, obstacle course, puzzles, or treasure hunt can be done at home. This allows children to develop gross motor skills and coordination. These fun activities involve the whole family and can be a great endorphin booster.
Activities outside the house
Activities such as going to a zoo, having a picnic, going camping, or visiting a museum can provide great benefits to a child. These activities involve the whole family in a calming and non-stimulating environment. They provide a wonderful opportunity for learning and cultivating knowledge.
Benefits of physical exercises for children with ADHD
Better cognitive function:
Physical activity improves attention, problem solving, and memory. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine regulate attention and focus.
Reduced hyperactivity and impulsivity:
Children now have a healthy outlet for spending their excess energy and cope with restlessness. This allows for greater self-control.
Better mood and self-esteem:
Children with ADHD often experience low mood and poor self-esteem. However, exercise releases endorphins, which enhances mood. This can help children manage their feelings of frustration, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Furthermore, exercise improves self-esteem through learning coordination and muscle control.
Children with ADHD might have poor social competence. This can be distressing for them as they can experience social exclusion while at school. Participating in team sports or group activities can help them to improve their self-confidence and social skills. These interactions also allow for children to communicate in an effective manner and to learn to cooperate.
Better sleep patterns:
These physical exercises tire a child out physically and mentally. This can allow for better sleep quality, which is essential for children with ADHD.
Reduced disruptive behaviours:
Studies have found that physically active children were less likely to engage in disruptive behaviours. These include hitting, name calling, talking out of turn, moving around inappropriately, and refusal to engage.
It is important for parents and caregivers of children with ADHD to encourage physical exercise in a consistent manner. They can help their children to set up a workable routine and set realistic goals. This would help to celebrate their progress and improve their self-confidence and self-efficacy.
Parents can also provide children with choice and a variety of exercises, so they can decide what activities they would like to partake in. While introducing exercise into a child's routine, parents should observe and supervise their children to ensure they are safe.
Thus, introducing a realistic and fun exercise routine for children with ADHD can provide many benefits associated with the symptoms of the disorder. Combining these with ongoing treatment can ensure a more holistic approach to treating and managing ADHD in children.
Exercise routines must also be adapted to the children's abilities, needs, and preferences, as every child is unique. With the appropriate patience and support, physical activity can become a valuable part of a comprehensive management plan for ADHD. With the expert team of mental health professionals at Rocket Health, parents can help create a viable treatment plan to meet their child’s needs. Book an online consultation with them now.
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