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Exercise as it relates to Disease/The effects of exercise on ADHD

Effect of Exercise as a Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)Edit

Brief Background

Neurobehavioral disorder [1] causing patterns of inattention & hyperactivity caused by the imbalance of Catecholamines (Norepinephrine and Epinephrine) in the Prefrontal Cortex & Striatal Brain regions [2]

Explanation/ Diagnosis of ADHD

There are two main criteria's used to diagnose ADHD, the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders & the International Classification of Disease.[3] Once diagnosed clinical patience are then interviewed & observed by a medical specialist [4] who look for a number of the following symptoms to help confirm the clinical diagnosis:[2][5][6][7]

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Abnormalities in Prefrontal Cortex
  • Impeded maturation & growth of brain
  • Poor self esteem
  • Social Impairments
  • Temper outbursts
  • Depression

The above symptoms are not the only ones associated with ADHD, however are those that are more common, with varying degrees of severity for each individual basis.[8] Furthermore, in order to be diagnosed with ADHD prominent symptoms must be present for at least six months, be excessive for the developmental age of the individual and cause impaired functioning [9]



The use of pharmaceutical treatment is the most common method of limiting/decreasing symptoms of ADHD. The two major stimulant medications being Methylphenidate(1) and Dexamphetamine,[8] Both have a rapid , consistent and predictable effect on patience with an effective duration time of approximately 4 hours[10] however both effect the body differently.

Methylphenidate; releases stored dopamine[11]

Dexamphetamine; releases synthesised dopamine and blocks synaptic uptake [12]

Adverse side effects of these drugs include but are not limited to:[11][12]

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood disturbances
  • Increased chance of psychotic events
  • Decreased growth rates

As a treatment method for ADHD patients exercising has recently proved to be quite effective, acting in a number of positive ways ;[5][13][14][15][16]

  • Increases levels of synaptic proteins
  • Elevation of hormone levels (insulin like growth factor, neurotropic factor)
  • Improved learning ability
  • Improved brain plasticity in children
  • Decreased behavioural issue
  • Improved executive functioning (adults)
  • Enhanced cognitive functioning
  • Improved inhibition


  • People with ADHD should spend time doing activities outdoors as studies found in the American Journal of Public Health show that out door activities cause a reduction in ADHD symptoms after being outside.
  • A minimum of 30 minutes 4 -5 times a week of moderate activity should be spent participating in physical activity as it helps improve chemical imbalances in the brain corresponding with the recommendations provided by the Heart Association & ADHD draft guidelines presented by the Australian government.
  • Heart Association also recommends that sports involving teamwork and/or attention to body stance is helpful for ADHD patients sufferering from focusing issues especially at a young age.

Recommended Readings

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)[18]
  • Draft Australian Guidelines on ADHD[19]

Reference List

  1. Medina, J., et al. (2010) Exercise impact on sustained attention of ADHD children, Methylphenidate effects. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, 2(1), 49-58.
  2. a b Wigal, S., et al. (2012) Exercise: Applications to Childhood ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, XX(X), 1-12.
  3. Sill, F. (2006) Some abnormal psychical conditions in children, Journal of Attention Disorders, 10(2), 126 - 136.
  4. Zwi, M., et al. (2000) Evidence and Belief in ADHD, British Medical Journal, 321, 975 – 978.
  5. a b Halperin, J., & Healey, D. (2011) The influence of environmental, cognitive enhancement, and physical education on brain development : can we alter the development trajectory of ADHD, Neuron science and behavioural reviews, 35, 621 – 634.
  6. Mulrine, C., et al.(2008) The Active Classroom: Supporting Students With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Through Exercise. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 40(5), 16-22.
  7. Kiluk, B., et al. (2009) Sport Participation and Anxiety in Children with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 12, 499 – 506.
  8. a b Corrigan, B. (2003) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Sport: A review. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 24(7), 535 – 540.
  9. Goldman, S., et al. (1998) Diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescence. The Journal for the American Medical Association, 279(14), 1100-1107.
  10. Swanson, J., et al. (1998) Attention deficit and hyperkinetic disorder. Lancet, 353, 429 – 433.
  11. a b Solanto, V. (2002) Dopamine dysfunction in AD/HD: integrating clinical and basic neuroscience research. Behavioural Brain Research, 10, 65-71.
  12. a b Shenker, A. (1992) The mechanism of action of drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: focus on catecholamine receptor pharmacology. Advances in Paediatrics, 39, 337-382.
  13. Gapin, J., et al. (2011) The effects of physical activity on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms : The evidence. Preventive Medicine, 52, S70 – 74.
  14. Etnier, J,. (2009) Physical activity and cognitive performance in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 31, S11 – S13.
  15. Lipnicki, D., et al. (2009) Bed Rest and Cognition: Effects on Executive Functioning and Reaction Time. Aviation, Space & Environmental Medicine, 80(12), 1018 – 1024.
  16. Robinson, A., et al. (2011) Effects of physical exercise on ADHD-like behaviour in male and female adolescent spontaneously hypertensive rats. Developmental Psychobiology, 53(4), 383 – 390.
  17. Roth, E,. (2011). Reasearch on ADHD and Exercise. October 2012,
  18. National Institute of Medical Health (2012). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). October 2012,
  19. Royal Australasian College of Physicians (2009). Draft Australian Guidelines on ADHD. Australian Government: National Health and Medical Research Council. October 2012,