Exercise May Help Treat ADHD Symptoms in Adults
A recently published Master’s thesis studying the effects of exercise on those at risk for ADHD suggests that intense periods of moderate exercise may have some impact on relieving certain symptoms associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
About five percent of adults report symptoms consistent with ADHD which, if untreated, can contribute to poor job and academic performance, depression, and social problems.
To date, research investigating the effects of exercise on ADHD has centered on children, and the results have been promising. This study by Kathryn Marie Fritz, a Masters candidate at the University of Georgia, noted the lack of work focused on adults in this field, as well as a dearth of quantifiable research into the viability of non-medical approaches to treating ADHD.
For the study, researchers examined the impact of exercise on 32 adult male subjects (18 – 34), thirty of whom had self-reported elevated ADHD symptoms and two who had formal diagnoses of ADHD. Testing consisted of twenty-minute sessions of moderately intense cycling followed by rest periods, during which changes in attention, hyperactivity, motivation to perform cognitive tasks and mood were measured.
Results were consistent with those from the work with children, as post-exercise testing found that participants experienced improvements in their mood, a reduction in confusion and depression and an increased motivation to complete cognitive tasks. This suggests that periods of moderately intense exercise can be beneficial in these areas. However, the study also found that exercise had no impact on the key behavioral elements of ADHD -- attention and hyperactivity -- as there was no change in these. These benefits are also consistent with research centered on the effects of exercise in adults who do not report symptoms of ADHD.
While the author acknowledges several limitations in this and other studies, her results do offer hope that males with ADHD symptoms who are at risk for developing the disorder may find an improvement in their motivation to address and complete cognitive tasks, as well as experiencing an uptick in their mood and related behaviors which may reduce some social problems that can plague those with ADHD.