One hour of vigorous exercise will give your ADHD child four hours of improved focus, many experts say. But in a world of smartphones, Facebook, and video games — along with cutbacks in phys ed and recess — how do you get your child up and moving?
Keep It New
Novelty is an attraction that drives most middle-schoolers, and is essential for those with ADHD, who are otherwise neurologically understimulated. Discover — then encourage and support — ways to bring something new to exercise in as many ways as possible. Here are some examples:
Mix It Up
Vary exercise routines with your child: Have him bike on Friday with a friend and hike on Sunday with the family. Have him play Wii Sports on rainy days, or play Ping-Pong to music. Run in a race for charity. Then change the days he exercises and change the place. Change the people he exercises with and change the activity itself. This approach keeps the routine from becoming routine.
You Do It, Too
What parent doesn’t need regular exercise? Take your middle-schooler with you when you work out. One dad wanted to get fit and learn a skill at the same time, so he took boxing lessons. The dad arranged for his son, Peter, to take boxing lessons at the same time he did. Peter loved it, learned new moves, and asked his dad for a punching bag he could use at home. On the flip side, do the exercise your child wants to do. Walk together somewhere that you usually drive to, climb a tree together, or explore a forest.
“Let’s bike downtown,” you say one day. You never did that before. A few days later say, “Let’s park here and walk the rest of the way.” Another day invite your daughter’s best friend to exercise with you as a surprise. Or tell your child to “skate down to the post office and mail this package for me. Buy a treat on the way home.”
Bring home a piece of equipment out of the blue and say, “Help me put this thing together.” It could be materials for an obstacle course or hand holds to make a climbing wall in the basement.
Key into His Talents
If your middle-schooler is better than most at a physical skill, find an activity in which he can practice it. The little kid who played imaginary combat with a stick might now like fencing, the animal lover might be ready to learn to run a dog on an agility course.