Sports & Activities

Is Orienteering the Perfect Sport for ADHD?

So, you’ve never heard of orienteering, huh? Find out why the combination of running and hiking with navigational skills works for people with ADHD.

Person with compass and map orienteering, a good activity for kid with ADHD
Person with compass and map orienteering, a good activity for kid with ADHD

Anyone who’s tried orienteering knows that the sport’s inventor probably had ADHD. Derived from training exercises for soldiers, orienteering combines running and hiking with navigational skills. Armed with a map, a compass, and a punch card, “orienteers” race between checkpoints hidden in a forest or wild area, punching their card at each to prove they found it. They start at staggered times to avoid following each other, and the fastest time wins.

Most orienteering meets offer several courses at different ability levels, and you can navigate a course with a friend or a child just for fun.

Why orienteering works for people with ADHD:

  • You use your keen senses and your need to think and move simultaneously. A good orienteer is always taking in information about the surrounding terrain and seeing what might be ahead.
  • Variable focus may be an asset. In orienteering, people who focus too hard on one choice end up running very fast in the wrong direction or deciding too quickly that they know where to go. So the multi-focus of ADHD becomes an advantage.
  • You can put your ADHD strategies to good use. Remember the advice about breaking large goals into smaller steps? Going from checkpoint to checkpoint breaks up what would be a simple footrace into a series of challenges for both body and brain.
  • There can be a lot of variety. Orienteers get creative. They do it on skis, bicycles, and even in wheelchairs. Also, the variety of locales is visually stimulating.
  • While orienteering isn’t a daily option, training for an orienteering meet could motivate you to get fit. Better yet, parents can go to a park and lay out their own course for the kids to follow. Be sure that each child leads at least one adult on their search. Design a course that has clear boundaries on safe terrain and keeps everyone in view.

The U.S. Orienteering Federation lists 61 local clubs across the country. To learn more about the sport and find groups or meets in your area, log onto US.Orienteering.org.

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