Dr. John Ratey, co-author of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, and speaker at the ADDA (ADD Association) Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota that took place July 10 to 13, 2008 spoke about adult ADHD and exercise.
He makes a good case around the fact that exercise is an important component to overcoming ADHD. As Dr. Ratey mentioned, more than 10,000 years ago, humans walked, ran or sprinted an average of 10 to 14 miles per day just to survive. They hunted and were hunted and so those who could out-run and out-plan their prey or preditors got to survive. This in fact, put ADHD adults at an evolutionary advantage. This ability to move quickly, this need to move, and make impulsive decisions actually aided in the survival of the species.
Now, fast forward to modern humans, we’re lucky if we walk, run or sprint 10 steps in our day. As a result, the same traits that ensured their survival in the past, create an unsatisfied need to move in ADHD adults. As a result of our sedentary lifestyle, ADHD has become a disorder.
To counter this, exercise becomes an important part of the solution. He described many convincing studies that described how exercise not only helps ADHD adults and children but is good for all brains because:
- it increases blood flow by increasing the number of blood vessels in the brain;
- it increases the release of neurotransmitters responsible for ADHD: norepinephrine and dopamine
- over time, you build more receptors, enzymes and blood vessels in your brain
- it helps control impulses because exercise arouses the brain
- it reduces the need for disciplinary issues in school
His new book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, is available at bookstores and describes much of the research on the importance of exercise as a way of improving the brain’s executive functions and thus, reducing the effects of ADHD.
- find an exercise you enjoy and make it fun
- make a commitment with yourself and others to help you stick to it
- select more challenging exercises involving balance such as karate, danse, tennis, volleyball, etc.
- use music to stimulate you
- go outside to exercise whenever possible
- make it into a ritual
As an ADHD Coach, I can safely say that my clients who have the most success in their lives despite their struggles with ADHD are often those who have adopted a more active lifestyle.
If you’ve never liked exercising or have found good excuses for not doing it, I challenge you to find something you’ll enjoy and begin with babysteps that you build on and