Exercise and ADHD

Sports video games can help many kids with ADHD improve their skills at real world sports. They can learn rules for various sports, get a sense of various roles and positions, acquire some “moves”, and develop a sense of strategy. Interestingly, you may also be able to translate children’s interest in video game play to on-field play. Researchers such as Cheryl Olson report that children who play sports video games are likely to increase the amount of time they play these sports outdoors. In addition, certain games such Grand Slam Tennis 2  or Fifa Soccer 2012 are realistic enough to teach children about field or court positioning and skill sets they might want to emulate. Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists have long known that children with ADHD need to move. They often have a ton of energy, which can sometimes be a great asset for them while playing sports.

However, team sports can be problematic for some children with ADHD due to difficulty in listening to coaches, understanding the team concept, recognizing where they need to be on the field or court, distractibility, or problems regulating their emotions and aggressiveness.  Video games may provide a chance to practice game skills, learn a specific position, and develop an expertise with the rules. Using video game play as a preview and training opportunity can help to make team sports a good experience for children with ADHD but choosing the right sport and position your child is the key to their success.
[hs_action id=”45844″]Here are a few recommendations for the sports and positions that best serve children with ADHD:
  • Soccer – In soccer, this might mean playing as a midfielder, where movement up and down the field is important for them.
  • Ice Hockey and Field Hockey – In hockey, this could mean playing defense, in which they need to maneuver up and down the entire rink or field.
  • Baseball and Softball – While not the best sports for kids with ADHD, an active position such as pitcher, catcher, or first baseman is strongly preferred.
  • Football – Playing defense may be better for many children with ADHD, as defense is generally more reactive and less based upon a specific play or coordination of teammates at basic levels.
  • Running – Joining  a cross country team where everyone runs together, there is no waiting around for dozens of events, and there is a need to focus on the terrain.

There is another great reason you might want to encourage your children with ADHD to play sports and to exercise in general. There is compelling data that vigorous exercise changes brain chemistry to enhance attention and learning. My favorite book on this topic is “Spark” by John Ratey, MD. If you read this book, you will have your child with ADHD playing team sports, learning karate, running, swimming and bicycling in no time.

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