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ADHD Natural Treatment - Exercise

Exercise is the most inexpensive, non-invasive, and accessible natural treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

You might be wondering, what does exercise have to do with improving a disorder that doctors say is caused by a deficiency in the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine? The answer to this question is: a lot. 

Whenever we walk, run, or do any aerobic activity, the brain releases several important chemicals that can reduce symptoms of ADHD.  Endorphins, for one, are hormone-like compounds responsible for regulating mood, pain, and pleasure. Physical activity triggers physiological changes that lead to the release of more dopamine and norepinephrine, the neurotransmitters involved in improved focus, mental alertness, and emotional stability.  Increased dopamine levels, in particular, helps the attention system function regularly and consistently, which reduces the craving for new stimuli and increases attention and alertness.

Besides boosting the production of neurotransmitters, exercise allows children to stretch their postural muscles. Because they must constantly adapt to gravity, postural muscles provide a baseline, constant stimulation to the brain.  Anything that affects the development and proper function of postural muscles, such as musculoskeletal imbalances, will create an imbalance in brain activity.  When this happens, one hemisphere of the brain – usually the right hemisphere – becomes weaker than the other. This is exactly what occurs in most children with ADHD, because their big postural muscles are underused. This is hardly surprising, considering that children today spend six to eight hours inside the classroom, and their remaining time outside the classroom playing video games or surfing the Internet.  In fact, national statistics reveal that children today are far less active than children ten years ago.  Coincidentally, ADHD diagnoses and mental disorders have skyrocketed over the same time period.

Your child doesn’t have to be a marathon runner in order to benefit from exercise.  Studies show that walking or doing any aerobic activity 30 minutes daily is enough to bring about noticeable behavioral changes in a few weeks.  Daily exercises help hyperactive children free all the pent-up energy they have inside.

Martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, or any sport that involves movement and coordination will benefit ADHD children the most because they also exercise the attention system.  The social component of these exercise sessions also motivates children to perform well and look forward to their classes or training sessions.

But your child does not need to be on a team to benefit from exercise. Actually, one study showed that unstructured regular daily activities brought more benefits than structured activities or team sports done only once or twice a week. This means that just letting your child run loose in a playground or a field is enough to bring significant benefits.  Another form of unstructured activity is walking or riding a bike to school instead of riding in a bus or car.

Another way you can help your child is to speak to the teachers at the next parent-teacher meeting and suggest including some exercise – beyond physical education classes – in the students’ daily routine.  One elementary school in Colorado begins each day with 20 minutes of aerobic exercise.  When children misbehave, they aren’t made to sit in the corner; instead, they are given ten minutes on an elliptical trainer or stationary bike.  This allows the kids to realize that their attention and mood can be regulated through exercise, which makes them feel empowered to control their behavior.

The best way to help your child overcome the disorder is by eliminating its roots causes through a nutritious diet, regular aerobic exercise, and a healthy home environment, as described in the UnRitalin Solution.