The main treatments for childhood ADHD are stimulant medications and behavioral therapy (or parent training). Although it’s important for your child with ADHD to receive professional treatment, other lifestyle factors can also play a big role in helping your child with their ADHD symptoms.
One of these lifestyle factors is physical exercise. Physical exercise could have many cognitive benefits for kids with ADHD. Exercise boosts brain chemicals like norepinephrine, which can help ease ADHD symptoms. On top of that, exercise may strengthen the brain’s executive functioning skills and decrease anxiety. There are a handful of benefits of exercise to kids with ADHD.
In this article, I’ll go over 7 super easy and fun exercise ideas for kids with ADHD.
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Dancing is a fun way to help your kids get regular physical activity without even realizing that they’re exercising. Plus, learning a specific dance technique or choreography could be beneficial for your child’s focus and coordination skills.
Enrolling your child in a local dance class is an excellent way to get them moving as well as improve their social skills. However, this option might not be available to you depending on your local area and cost. Free online options for dance classes are plentiful, and the important thing is to get your child moving — so play some music and get them dancing in any way you can.
Martial arts are ancient movement techniques, originating in Asia, that teach ADHD kids things like discipline and self-control. Many communities have martial arts training centers where your child can take classes. Some common types of martial arts include:
Studies have found that martial arts, specifically taekwondo, can improve kids’ executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills are the more advanced skills that the brain is responsible for, like planning, time management, and problem-solving. Kids with ADHD often have deficits to their executive functioning, so martial arts could be especially helpful for them.
Games like tag
ADHD often causes kids to experience bullying or social rejection. Kids with ADHD could also need extra support in learning and practicing important social skills like taking turns. That’s why exercise in the form of a group game like tag could be very beneficial for kids with ADHD.
Joining a team sport might not interest your child with ADHD. But by playing tag and other playground games, they can connect with peers without the pressure of joining an official team. These games can also help children learn important social skills like teamwork.
Best of all, tag doesn’t require any equipment, preparation, or expensive classes. Your child may even already be playing these types of games at school.
Simple yoga techniques
Yoga is an ancient practice that has its roots in Eastern spirituality. In the West, it’s most commonly practiced in a secular way — meaning that any child can benefit from yoga regardless of their religious or cultural background.
There is some evidence that yoga for ADHD can help decrease symptoms. One study found that an 8-week yoga exercise intervention improved sustained attention and discrimination function in children with ADHD.
Start with simple yoga techniques, especially if you’re not a certified yoga teacher. Your child can learn simple poses like cat-cow or mountain poses. Yoga can also decrease stress and anxiety, both of which are common in children with ADHD. Consider joining your child in their yoga sessions as a way to manage your own stress in a healthy way.
This classic playground game invites children to follow instructions very carefully. If the “leader” of the game says “Simon Says” before an instruction, then the players must follow that instruction. But if the leader gives an instruction without prefacing it with “Simon Says,” then players who follow the instruction are out.
Although there’s no research to prove it, the nature of this decades-old game may help strengthen your child’s focus and improve their ability to process and follow instructions. In addition to following directions, Simon Says requires the use of other executive functioning skills, including:
- Working memory
To reap the benefits of physical exercise for ADHD, give your child active “Simon Says” instructions, like “Do 15 jumping jacks!”.
Research shows that spending time in green spaces is also incredibly beneficial for children with ADHD. One study found that doing activities outdoors reduced ADHD symptoms more than doing those same activities indoors. Being in nature is also effective against depression, anxiety, and stress. Discover the best activities for ADHD kids.
You can combine the powers of nature and exercise by inviting your child on a nature walk. If you have a large green space in your neighborhood where you can go for a hike, then that’s fantastic. But even if you don’t, simply spending time moving in nature could benefit your child. Some easy ways to get outside include playing at the park after school and walking to school using a greener route. Some parents even get their ADHD child a dog to encourage exercise.
Hula-hooping has many health benefits, from improving flexibility to strengthening the core. For kids with ADHD, hula-hooping could improve concentration, coordination, and confidence. It can also be a great activity to do as a family.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of hula-hooping is that it’s so fun that it feels like a game. Your child may be motivated to hula-hoop simply because they enjoy it, rather than you having to nag them to exercise for their health.
Although nothing can replace professional treatment like medication and therapy, physical exercise has been found to be beneficial for decreasing ADHD symptoms. Engaging your child in these easy and fun exercise methods could help them focus better, build improved social skills, and strengthen their muscle coordination.