Exercise & Green Time

Daily Exercise Ideas That Build Focus

Aerobic exercise can help children with ADHD improve attention, sharpen social skills, and learn more effectively. Learn how to incorporate physical activity into your child’s daily routine.

A group of children running, a smart exercise idea for kids
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Put the Physical In Education

A recent study found that 30 minutes of exercise before school can help kids with ADHD focus and manage moods. It can even eliminate or decrease the need for stimulant medications used to treat symptoms. Learn why it works, and how to incorporate physical activity into all areas of your child's life.

A cartoon brain with information about exercise, travel, and kids streaming out
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How Exercise Helps

Exercise boosts the brain's neurotransmitters – chemicals that many people with ADHD run short on. It also increases the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) available. The balance of neurochemicals lets the brain make stronger connections, and higher levels of BDNF directly correlate with increased rates of learning. When neurotransmitters make weak connections, you forget!

A young student using a tablet in class, looking up exercise ideas she can do with other kids
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Exercise + Stimulation

Exercise primes the brain for learning, and environmental enrichment helps to make the important connections happen. When kids with ADHD are stimulated in class, following exercise, it encourages the newly developed cells to plug into the brain's communication network and become members of the signaling community. Thirty minutes, four times a week, of running, jumping, or skipping should do the trick.

A family hiking together in the woods, a great exercise idea for kids
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Green Treatment

Nature has a great positive impact on kids. The more time they spend in a natural setting, the greater ability they have to focus and concentrate. Even 20 minutes of exercise on a tree-lined street can improve symptoms. Exposure to outdoor activities like camping, fishing, or just running around in the woods can help kids recover from symptoms like attention fatigue and increase patience and impulse control.

A young boy unwilling to get out of bed, dreaming up ideas for exercise
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Control Aggression, Sleep Better

Being physically active can help kids with ADHD control aggression, and sleep better. Exercise helps our bodies transition between the phases of sleep, and physical exhaustion can increase the amount of time we spend in deep sleep. A half hour spent climbing a tree or paddling a canoe can mean a good night's sleep and less crankiness, anxiety and stress throughout the day.

A little girl walking a dog, one of many exercise ideas for kids
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Before School

Exercising before school can ease kids' anxiety, and prime their brain for learning. Having kids take the dog for an early morning run, or ride their bikes to school are great ADHD morning outlets. If the weather is bad, even jumping rope or bouncing on a small indoor trampoline can help. Some teachers lead their students in calisthenics, yoga, or martial arts first thing in the morning.

Kids running in the school hallway, a great exercise idea for kids at school
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At School

Kids with ADHD do best when movement is built in throughout the day with set times to jog in place or do jumping jacks. Give kids the opportunity to move around the room while helping the teacher hand out supplies, collect papers, or deliver messages — a good way to help them feel special and to blow off steam. A wiggle chair or fidget can help extra active kids sit still without disrupting others.

Girls playing on monkey bars, a common exercise idea for kids
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During Recess

Playing with classmates can help kids with ADHD work on social skills, and keep them from acting out in the afternoon. Teachers should never take away recess as a punishment. Hyperactive kids need the boost from playing tag or climbing the jungle gym to improve attention, working memory, and mood.

A happy family playing together in the park, a common exercise idea for families with kids
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At Home

Get kids off the couch after school! Make a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity a rule before homework or video games. An after-school karate class, swim lesson, or soccer practice is a great idea, but free time running around the park works, too. Ask your child what he's learning in gym class, and encourage him to practice his skills. Set up play dates at a friend's. Kids are less likely to be sedentary when at someone else's house.

A ADHD boy enjoying rock climbing at indoor climbing gym, healthy and active lifestyle concept
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Sign Up for Sports

Sports can give kids with ADHD confidence and help them work toward goals. Any sport that involves running or sprinting can improve executive function. Skilled activities like rock climbing, yoga, karate, gymnastics, figure skating or tai chi help expend energy and build brain connections as well. Swimming and diving are excellent for kids with ADHD, as the repetitive motion is both soothing and physically taxing. Exercise creates a sense of well-being, and opens up a new level of concentration and perception.