Let's hear it for jumping jacks and somersaults! Exercise and getting active is a terrific way to activate the brain – especially with ADHD!
We recommend that before kids sit down to do homework, they do pushups, shoot hoops, run around the yard – do something to get the body moving and the brain going. After getting active, they'll be more engaged in their schoolwork and their brain will focus better – and they'll be more fit, as well.
Exercise is critical for another reason: ADHD is all about 'appetites.' ADHD medications cause changes in appetite for stimulation. While sometimes it leads to weight loss, the flip side is also true. Many kids with ADHD struggle with weight gain and obesity.
When it comes to weight gain, we have to factor in the larger obesity issue in our society. My hunch is that it's not just about ADHD (which can certainly cause impulsive eating!) – it's about the world we live in, a world filled with television screens, computers, iPhones, and tablets. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids 8-18 spent 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen – and that was before the pandemic! No wonder they “don't have time” for chores!
Getting Active with ADHD
Every kid – and every adult – needs physical activity. The best way to ensure your child gets it is to get it yourself. If your family sees you modeling couch potato behavior or making excuses (“I'm too busy,” “I'll start tomorrow.”), that's what they'll follow. But if they see you hopping on your bike, hitting the gym, or dancing around the house, that's the culture they'll step into. Activity is for everyone: ADHD, typical, child, parent – and its benefits are equally powerful to all.
Exercise is especially important for kids with ADHD. Be a positive role model by getting active yourself and inviting kids to get some sort of activity in, particularly before difficult tasks like homework or studying. With the obesity epidemic in North America firmly entrenched, we parents have to do everything we can to keep our families healthy.
Since our kids with ADHD are at a higher risk in many areas, including obesity, think in terms of getting active with ADHD. Add just a little bit of whole body movement to a life otherwise full of xbox. Start small, and allow getting active to catch on!