Exercise does not mean hitting the treadmill or forcing yourself to jog around the track. It can be more fun and fulfilling than that.
Research suggests exercise helps with the management of ADHD symptoms. But if you’re not naturally active, it can be tough to exercise regularly – and enjoy it. Exercising can improve focus and help reduce symptoms of ADHD, as well as the symptoms of comorbidities, like anxiety, depression, low energy and demotivation. Individuals with hyperactive-type ADHD can have pent-up energy and exercise helps release it in a healthy way.
The first step in managing ADHD is getting the right treatment. Once you’ve consulted with your healthcare practitioner and started a holistic treatment plan, it’s helpful to look at other ways of managing ADHD in conjunction with treatment – like exercise.
Boost the brain
Individuals with ADHD often have lower levels of dopamine. 1 During exercise, the brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which can help boost focus and reduce stress.1 Physical activity also helps improve impulse control and reduces compulsive behaviour in adults with ADHD. If you have ADHD, here are some ways to get moving – even if you’re not naturally sporty.
How to get started
Vary your exercise routine – that way you won’t lose interest or focus halfway through. A good rule is to keep exercise simple. If your fitness routine is too complicated, you’ll find it difficult to follow or maintain, which can leave you feeling demotivated.
Choose a workout buddy to get started – a friend or family member can help keep you on track and make sure you exercise. Your exercise partner can also hold you accountable, so you can’t bail on your workout – and it’s more fun to exercise in company. Draw up an exercise plan and reward yourself after each session completed.
One of the best ways to stick to a new exercise program is to combine exercise with fresh air and sunshine. Studies suggest ‘green exercise’ (exercise done outside) can help elevate moods, focus the mind and improve sleeping patterns.
Many people who aren’t naturally athletic might struggle with how to get active. A good idea is to choose non-traditional forms of exercise.
Martial arts can help with focus and relaxation at the same time. The rules involved can also help enforce structure for adults with ADHD. Martial arts also work progressively to build up fitness levels, so you don’t have to be hugely active to start.
One of the symptoms of ADHD can be hyperactivity. Yoga can help streamline hyperactivity because it’s calm, slow and encourages inward focus. Yoga is relaxing and increases flexibility at the same time – so those who aren’t active won’t struggle.
Take a walk
Walking is a simple exercise anyone can do – all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes. Even a 20-minute walk can improve concentration. Walking regularly can help reduce stress and anxiety associated with ADHD. It’s a perfect way to become active if you’re unfit. You can start slow, with a short distance, and increase the pace and distance as you become fitter.
Dance it out
Dance classes are a fun and unusual workout. The best dance classes include fast-paced movements to release energy. Dancing can also help better concentration, improve coordination and encourage socialisation. You’ll get lost in the music and it won’t even feel like you’re exercising.
Make exercise fun and interesting. As long as you’re moving and you’re getting your heart rate up, you’re likely to see positive effects from exercise to manage ADHD symptoms.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.