Exercise is an excellent outlet for anyone suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – especially if the hyperactive symptoms are dominant. Managing a high-energy child is always problematic, but instead of suppressing their behavior with medication, why not harness the hyperactivity with the help of circuit training? Circuit training is a fitness approach that involves multiple exercise stations, each with a different type of exercise. Think of it as something like an obstacle course, except the obstacles are to accomplish a certain number of reps or exercises in a rapid fashion. Circuit training provides a variety of challenges, physical conditioning, and structure. What if this technique were used to manage hyperactivity?
The first thing you should do is determine a particular time of day when the ADHD symptoms are at their peak. Many ADHD children are more hyperactive during the hours after school, but there are also those who get too distracted to get dressed at the start of the day. The next step is to figure out where you can do the circuit training activities. A large back yard or front lawn is an excellent start, but your child’s bedroom would be all right too – so long as there are no breakable objects within reach.
Here’s an example of how you can implement the principles of circuit training. Chances are, your child is difficult to wake up in the morning because he or she has had a hard time falling asleep (which is common among kids with ADHD). Waking up for school can be considered as the training’s warm-up. Make a CD with music that starts out soft, then increases in tempo and volume. Play the CD ten minutes before your child is supposed to get up, and periodically check in to make sure he or she is awake. When your child is finally up, don’t let him or her leave the room without doing some deep breathing to wake up the brain. This should take about two or three minutes.
Now it’s time to warm up the muscles. With the CD still on, have your child march around the room or all over the house – the more exaggerated the better! You can also include some yoga stretching and jumping jacks – whichever exercise you prefer. The point is to wake your child up and make him or her a little more active.
The next part of the circuit training is speed drills, which are very useful if it takes your child forever to get ready for school. Lay your child’s clothes all over the room – place the jeans in the closet, the shirt on the dresser, the socks and shoes by the door. Get a stop watch and tell your child that you are going to time how long it takes to go from one station to the next. Challenge your child by offering a simple reward if he or she can get dressed in three minutes or less. This exercise might be more effective if other siblings join in and compete.
Finally, it’s time for the reward – breakfast! Always make sure your child eats a healthy, high-protein breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day and one of the few meals you have control over, in terms of its nutritional content.
The beauty of circuit training is that you can implement the routine for other activities like homework or bed time. The important thing is to keep it consistent, keep it simple, and keep it fun.