Can Exercise Help ADHD?

October 30, 2017

Man running in forest on sunrise. Bright sun glow in upper left corner.

We all know exercise is good for us; it keeps us looking trim while improving our overall health. This isn’t new information by any means, but exercise is continuing to prove beneficial in other areas as well.

Studies are now showing that exercise can help reduce symptoms of ADHD. It might sound a little far-fetched, but it actually makes sense.

You know when you’re working out and are in the zone? That has to do with the part of your brain that’s being activated. Exercise triggers attention to work in all the right ways – sustained focus, memory, prioritizing, and more. On top of that, working out releases endorphins.

A lot of us have heard that before, but what are endorphins? They’re similar to hormones but they regulate mood; which is why you might find yourself in a good mood after hitting the gym. But endorphins aren’t the only thing your brain is producing during a workout.

Exercise also causes a release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin – a few chemicals that not only make you feel good, they also help with focus. Unsurprisingly, people with ADHD tend to have a deficit of these chemicals.

If you’re thinking you need to be an athlete to feel these benefits, don’t worry. You don’t. Researchers say that as little as a half hour walk a few times a week can be enough to start seeing benefits.

While walking can be a great option for adults with ADHD, some kids with ADHD might prefer games and sports. More complex activities like basketball, volleyball, and dance are a few good options for kids.

These will engage your child mentally while still providing enough exertion to get those endorphins released. Another benefit to routine exercise (especially for kids) is its ability to boost confidence. It’s all too common for kids with ADHD to expect to fail.

But when a child finds something that they’re good at and enjoy doing, naturally their confidence gets a boost. When that hobby happens to be a form of exercise, it’s the best of both worlds.

Studies have even shown that people who are aerobically fit are less likely to experience feeling helpless. If you’re looking for help getting started, check out our Pinterest boards on diet and exercise.

We have tips that will hopefully make getting in shape a bit more fun for you and your family.

Like what you read? Get more ADHD tips like this by signing up for our newsletter or download our white paper on ADHD. ADDitude Editors. Exercise and the ADHD Brain: The Neuroscience of Movement. Retrieved from