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ADHD Causes: Recreational Activities

A majority of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder now take various drugs marketed to treat the disorder.  Proponents of ADHD medication therapy claim that the symptoms of this disorder are caused by a lack of neurotransmitters, and prove this with PET scans that show the difference in brain function between children who have ADHD and children who do not.  Taking medication, they say, temporarily normalizes the brain function of children with ADHD, resulting in improved concentration, attention, and behavior. While it is true children with ADHD have different brains, ADHD is not solely a result of problematic brain chemistry.  There are many environmental factors that cause the neurotransmitter deficiencies, and addressing these factors is more effective in the long run than simply sedating children with medication.

One of the factors that aggravate ADHD in children is the recreational activities they do. The kind of music listened to and the TV shows watched are just some examples of stimuli that have an impact on brain chemistry.  Researchers have recently discovered that playing violent games is often followed by aggressive behavior. This is because violent games stimulate dopamine production in the brain, which is similar to what the ADHD medication Ritalin does.  Playing video games might be addictive, because children who play them have gotten so used to the raised dopamine levels that they cannot concentrate on anything else without that surge of neurotransmitters.

On top of that, recreational activities that keep children glued to a TV set or computer screen encourage a sedentary lifestyle, which worsens attention problems and hyperactive behavior.  You don't need to spend thousands on medication to notice that moving around and playing outdoors can benefit your child tremendously.  Physical activity is very important for children, but even more so for those with ADHD.  Muscles and joints of the body contain neurological receptors that translate all the activity into electrical signals that travel to the brain.  Movement accompanied by the pull of gravity stimulates these muscles and activates the postural musculature's receptors, the main source of electrical signals to the brain.  According to Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Dr John Ratey, exercise switches on the executive function of the attention system, causing children to be less impulsive.

This is not to say that Nintendo causes children to be more hyperactive and inattentive per se; rather, it is excessive video-game playing and a sedentary lifestyle devoid of physical activity that triggers the symptoms.  Physical activities such as martial arts, sports, gymnastics, and even skateboarding have been shown to benefit children with ADHD because the movements they require activate many areas of the brain.   Even simply walking half an hour a day can do wonders for your child.  One study concluded that children with ADHD benefit a lot more from daily unstructured physical activity (running around in play, walking, biking) than from infrequent structured activities (organized sports) done only a few hours a week. Another study, published in the Journal of Public Health in 2007, showed that as little as twenty minutes of activity in outdoor settings is more beneficial than activities done indoors.

Just as a change in lifestyle makes it easier to lose weight than going on diets, so do changes in lifestyle and recreational activities benefit children with ADHD more than medication and therapy.  Encourage daily physical activity and limit time spent on video games, and you might start noticing significant behavioral improvements in your child.