The Atlantic reports on a new study published this morning in the journal Pediatrics.
…kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function. The findings, according to University of Illinois professor Charles Hillman and colleagues, “demonstrate a causal effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health.” Physical activity is clearly a high, high-yield investment for all kids, but especially those attentive or hyperactive.
The improvements in this case came in executive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks). The images above show the brain activity in the group of kids who did the program as opposed to the group that didn’t. It’s the kind of difference that’s so dramatic it’s a little unsettling. The study only lasted nine months, but when you’re only seven years old, nine months is a long time to be sitting in class with a blue head.
Earlier this month, another study found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading test scores in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD. (Executive functioning is impaired in ADHD, and tied to performance in math and reading.) Lead researcher Alan Smith, chair of the department of kinesiology at Michigan State, went out on no limb at all in a press statement at the time, saying, “Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD.”
Last year a very similar study in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that just 26 minutes of daily physical activity for eight weeks significantly allayed ADHD symptoms in grade-school kids. The modest conclusion of the study was that “physical activity shows promise for addressing ADHD symptoms in young children.” The researchers went on to write that this finding should be “carefully explored with further studies.” READ THE REST
All of this goes to why author, Richard Louv, coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” as an alternative to ADHD. No, getting out and playing isn’t the cure for ADHD, but increased physical activity should absolutely be a foundational part of any treatment program for ADHD. ADHD does not have to be a lifelong sentence. Kids can overcome it with proper, comprehensive treatment. For more information on raising healthy, focused, well-rounded kids, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.