Green Time: A Natural Remedy for ADHD Symptoms

Can attention deficit symptoms be eased by alternative ADHD treatments like exercise? Research shows "green" time can lead to an increased ability to focus.

Newsmaker, Part 2

Do these studies suggest that parents of ADD children should encourage their kids to spend more time outdoors?
What are the risks? We don’t know of any — beyond splinters, bug bites, and the like. So giving them more outside time seems worth trying. The consistency of the reports from parents in our surveys gives me faith in parents’ ability to see what’s going on with their kids, so why not encourage greener activities and watch what happens? My guess is that, if there’s an effect, it will be pretty obvious.

Any specific suggestions?
If there’s a choice of routes to and from school, try walking or driving the greener one. Before starting on homework, it might be nice for your child to have a snack and play outside for 20 minutes. Lots of parents have the opposite inclination: Do homework first, then go out and play.

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I think parents could try to give their children a little green time before any activity that requires attention. For example, if your child has trouble sitting still in church, send him to play ball on the lawn for 20 minutes before you go. If you have a garden, enlist your child’s help with gardening. Pay a family visit to the park or a nature preserve on the weekend.

It might be interesting to see if parking your child in front of a window with a nice view to do homework makes a difference versus doing homework in a room without a view. For most kids, natural views aren’t too distracting. But reactions differ, so I would say try it for a few days to find out.

How about vacations?
This isn’t something we looked at scientifically, but the parents we spoke with seemed pretty positive about “natural” vacations. My favorite comment was: “We went to Disney, and it was a disaster. But when we go camping, my child doesn’t have any symptoms!”

If you hate the woods, of course, it makes no sense to take your child camping. But if the choice were “we could go to Los Angeles or go camping,” I’d be inclined to try the camping.

What about city dwellers? Should they move to the country for the sake of the kids?
As a scientist, I have to say that there’s far too little data to recommend that. But as a parent who knows the research, I would say that if I had a kid with ADD, green would be a significant factor in my decision about where to live. My research has made me more aware of how much time my own seven-year-old son spends indoors, and more persistent in encouraging him to play outside.

Is green time also good for ADD adults?
This is something else we haven’t looked at. But I’d be pretty surprised if it weren’t. After all, we see the positive effect of green time in adults and children who don’t have ADD, as well as in kids who do have ADD. Why should non-ADD adults be any different?

This article comes from the April/May 2006 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Alternative Treatments for ADHD, Exercise and ADHD, Learn to Focus with ADHD, ADHD Causes

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