We know that exercise benefits us physically, but as at Harvard Medical School Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Dr. John J. Ratey explains in his 2012 TED talk, exercise has also been associated with improved test scores, fewer behavioral problems and improved well being.
But does exercise have an affect on ADD in particular? A 2013 review of studies that examined whether exercise reduced ADD symptoms found that:
- Older adults who are more aerobically fit have more “task-related activity” in areas of the brain associated with ADD. Exercise also improves “executive function” (i.e. memory, reasoning, planning and follow-through).
- Exercise facilitates chemical communication between neurons in the brain, improves cognitive performance and increases brain density and volume.
- Exercise has a “positive effect,” especially on executive functioning, which is “often impaired in people with ADD.”
Only a limited number of studies have examined the impact of exercise on ADD, most of which have focused on children. For example, small studies have suggested that children with ADD experience improved overall self-control and attention after a single period of moderate aerobic exercise, and that “aerobic exercise may enhance the cognitive functions of children with ADHD.” More rigorous research is needed, but these studies suggest that exercise can reduce ADD symptoms and improve behavior among children with ADD.