How Exercise Helps ADHD

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There have been a number of studies done that prove that exercise helps ADHD symptoms. Sometimes the positive effects can be evident as much as 24 hours later.

But how does exercise help ADHD?

Well on a practical level, exercise can help increase focus and attention and decrease impulsiveness. It also helps increase self confidence.

Those of us with ADHD are all too familiar with some sort of failure. ADHD means that we have trouble doing things that those without ADHD take for granted. It can result it what is called “learned helplessness”.

Exercise can help us learn to push forward, to keep trying and to try new things. It can undo the effects of learned helplessness.

So how does exercise do this?

When you exercise, your body releases a number of chemicals.

Endorphin is one of them. Endorphin regulates mood, pleasure and pain.

Exercise also stimulates production of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. All of these compounds affect focus and attention. Dopamine actually regulates the attention system so that it is more consistent. (On a side note, an increase in these same compounds can have a positive effect on depression.)

Now I know a lot of people aren’t thrilled by exercise. It’s boring, sometimes painful and hard.

But the truth is you don’t need a lot to feel the benefits regarding ADHD. A 20 – 30 minute walk 4 times a week should do the trick.

Let me tell you my own personal experience; maybe it will motivate you to try and keep trying.

About 2 years ago I went to my family reunion. At some point during the day, several of us went for a walk along the river. It wasn’t long before I was lagging far behind, panting and dripping sweat. No one else seemed the least bit affected.

I weighed about 20 lbs more then than I do now. I was deeply embarrassed and scared and wanted to change.

I didn’t do anything about it, though, until at least 6 months later. My daughter was engaged and I wanted to lose weight before the wedding. My goal was 30 lbs. I ended up losing 10.

Last year, when I found out I was going to be a grandma for the first time, I decided I really had to get serious. I cleaned up my eating habits and decided that I was going to exercise. I accepted the fact that I hated it, but I knew I had to do it anyway.

As an ADDer, most of us would approach something like that by joining a gym, buying some workout clothes and going at it full throttle for about a week or two before we burned out and gave up.

I was smart this time.

I didn’t do that.

I started parking at the back of the parking lot when I went somewhere. I got a little part time job that got me out of the house and on my feet for a few hours a week. And I bought a pedometer to see how far I was walking each day, just throughout my day.

All of these changes took place over a few months.

I started walking in the morning or evening, either alone or with a neighbor.

Then I found out about 5K races. A 5K is 3.1 miles. It’s not so far.

I did my first one last September and I’ve been hooked ever since. My goal this year is to run rather than walk my last race of the year.

I’m 20 lbs lighter and on my way to losing the rest. I feel great.

I’m telling you this to let you know that you can do it.

Just start really small. Park a few spots farther away. Try to take a few more steps each day.

You can do it, and your body and your ADD brain will benefit.

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Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

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