Exercise May Help Kids Focus

Children with symptoms of ADHD benefited from exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Exercise improves health in many ways. And a new study suggests it may help children who have problems focusing at school.

Children with symptoms of ADHD were less moody and more focused if they exercised before school, the authors of a recent study found.

"Add daily exercise to your child's schedule."

Alan Smith, PhD, a professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing, and colleagues wrote the study.

The authors studied 202 children between kindergarten and second grade for 12 weeks. The children ranged from 4 to almost 9 years old. The authors watched signs of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Children with ADHD often have trouble staying focused and getting along with others.

Of the 202 children, 94 showed signs of ADHD.

The children were placed into before-school programs for 31 minutes a day for 12 weeks. In one group, the children were kept active. In the other, they did art activities. The active kids played games and did exercises that required at least as much effort as taking a brisk walk.

At the end of 12 weeks, parents and teachers were asked to rate whether the children's behavior had changed at school or home.

Both programs appeared to benefit the children. The active kids, however, showed more focus.

In particular, children with symptoms of ADHD benefited most from the exercise, the study authors found. They were less moody and focused more at school or home.

"I have gotten to work with thousands of children in both active and sedentary environments and from my experience I have seen that those children who are exposed to a more active and exercise based day have longer term success in their school classrooms,” said Jim Crowell, head coach at Optimum Performance Training in Scottsdale, AZ, in an interview with dailyRx News.

“I have seen a number of problem children or children who have difficulty focusing in school and over time a combination of better nutrition, more consistent exercise, more purpose to their day, and more engagement by their instructors helped them make faster and stronger gains both within my fitness facilities as well as in school," he said.

The study authors noted the need for further research on children who don't do before-school activities.

The study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

The National Institute of Mental Health funded this study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 11, 2014
Last Updated:
September 11, 2014