Could treating or reducing the symptoms of ADHD be as simple as encouraging children to get more exercise? New research suggests this may be the case.
A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology showed that children who engaged in 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity before morning classes showed a marked improvement in their symptoms. The research was conducted by the Michigan State University kinesiology department, in conjunction with the University of Vermont.
For the study, 200 Vermont schoolchildren, about half of whom have a high risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), participated in the study. The at-risk group was identified based on parent and teacher assessments of typical ADHD symptoms.
The children were divided into two test groups; one group was assigned physical activity in the morning, while the other was assigned classroom work.
Over the 12-week course of the study, both parents and teachers then rated the children on inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, moodiness and sociability.
Of the children who were at high risk for ADHD, those who exercised improved more than those who worked on sedentary tasks.
But the outcome is muddied by the fact that all the children, not just the at-risk group, benefited from before-school exercise.
The researchers acknowledged that more work in the area needs to be done, but pointed to the outcomes as a clear sign that both parents and schools should work to incorporate physical activity into student routines.
The study comes as mounting evidence suggests that ADHD is both over-diagnosed and over-medicated, leaving many researchers and parents looking for alternative methods to deal with their children’s inability to focus.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of 2011 (the most recent data available), 11% of children in the United States had been diagnosed with ADHD. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also show that many diagnoses of ADHD are dubious and based on vague symptoms that may occur in many children, such as poor focus and general moodiness.