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Long-Term Aerobic Exercise Regimens Can Help Improve Behavioral Symptoms in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

12 August 2017


Background: Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a complex and common neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Though there is an abundance of literature investigating ADHD, the disorder remains difficult to understand, as it has genetic, metabolic, dietary, neurological, emotional, and parental components. Current preferred treatment of ADHD is a combined approach of behavioral therapy and stimulants but pharmacologic treatment has limitations in efficacy and can have a negative side effect profile. Physicians have had long believed anecdotally that exercise regimens may be helpful in managing symptoms of ADHD in children. This paper will discuss recent research that supports this belief.

Methods: Exhaustive search of available medical literature was conducted using Google Scholar and MEDLINE-PubMed. Keywords used were: “exercise and ADHD”, “physical activity and ADHD”, and “ADHD and cardio”.

Results: A total of 24 studies were reviewed for inclusion in this discussion. Three papers were selected. All of these papers showed encouraging evidence that supports the use of exercise to help manage ADHD symptoms. The studies were all moderate in strength and further research is necessary to help apply the use of exercise in the treatment of ADHD in clinical practice.

Conclusion: Exercise can be a useful tool to help manage symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity in children. Further research is necessary to help determine how much exercise is required, of what type (cardio vs strength, short vs long duration), and how it may be used as an adjunct to pharmacologic treatment.

Keywords: “exercise and ADHD”, “physical activity and ADHD”, and “ADHD and cardio”.


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