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The link between physical & mental health: ADHD.

The link between physical & mental health. Overtimulation & ADHD. Prevention is better than cure.Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder of which the primary symptom is the inability to concentrate. While the symptoms are widely accepted, the causes are disputed. Conventional studies of this disease have focused on brain’s ability to produce dopamine, food additives such as colourants, genetic research and environmental factors (including alcohol, in utero tobacco smoke and lead exposure). Meanwhile, the actual treatments are even more controversial, ranging from medication (including stimulants and anti-depressants), to counseling and behavioural therapy.

But recent studies describe a new form of ADHD treatment; how strenous exercise can reduce the symptoms of ADHD, without the need for medication:

Exercise has a profound affect on ADHD and the child, teen or adult. In addition to promoting health, a regular exercise program can modifying behavior in the ADHD child and may even promote brain growth.

Aerobic exercise increases levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters provide emotional stability, the ability to focus, mental alertness and calmness. Conversely, a deficiency in neurotransmitters can cause depression, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, attention problems, stress and sleep problems.

Exercise also releases endorphins, the opiate-classified messengers of our emotional system that elevate mood, increase pleasure and minimize pain. The degree of chemical change is dependent on the intensity, duration and frequency of the aerobic activity.

Current fitness and exercise research makes a correlation between an active lifestyle and positive changes in brain chemistry, brain growth and development. Studies also show that exercise has a positive affect on curbing negative behaviors common in the ADHD child.

A 2001 State University of New York, Buffalo study showed the positive benefits of exercise on ADHD children. The study group – ADHD children between the ages of 5 and 12 – participated in 40 minutes of intense exercise five days per week.

Children involved in this study showed a significant improvement in behavior over the six-week duration of the study. Behavior changes were generally noticeable two to four weeks after beginning the exercise program and children with oppositional behaviors made the greatest improvements with exercise. This study makes good common sense; give hyperactive an outlet for their excess energy and they will have less to cause trouble with.

National statistics show that today’s children are increasingly less active than children 10 years ago. Not so coincidentally, psychosomatic disorders and ADHD prescriptions have skyrocketed over the same time frame.

If you have an ADHD child or teen or if you are an adult with ADHD, the kindest most healthy treatment plan is one that focuses on routine intense aerobic exercise, and one that includes a nutritious diet and an attentional supplement program to fill any gaps.

The child, teen or adult with ADHD needs to incorporate at least 30 minutes of activity to each day. At least 20 minutes of this exercise needs to be at a moderate to intense level. Source

Regular athletes in all disciplines of their sport are well aware that physical training has a de-stressing effect on both the mind and body. It is well known that stress levels fall considerably following intense exercise. So to me, it’s an obvious conclusion. I go on to wonder if the reverse could also be true: could a lack of excerise combined with overchoice/overstimulation aggravate ADHD in the early phase of its development? In case you weren’t aware, there is now a global mental health crisis. Anxiety related disorders are widespread in all modern societies; I think the key is the prevalence of anxiety as a common symptom in almost all mental disorders. Indeed, why are we all feeling so anxious? And if the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics are anything to go by, is anybody normal?!

Exercising just 30 minutes several times a week can relieve general anxiety and stress, and can be an effective treatment for more serious conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. A recent study conducted at the University of Colorado suggested that physical activity also can prevent stress to our immune systems, leaving us less susceptible to some bacterial and viral infections.

Perhaps most importantly, studies have shown that people who exercise have a more positive outlook on the world in general. The good news is that you don’t need to train for a marathon to brighten your perspective on life — for people new to exercise, even as little as 10 minutes a day has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and promote a general sense of well-being.

The mind-body connection

Researchers don’t know exactly how exercise reduces stress, but they have a number of possible explanations. “More than likely, the results stem from a combination of physiological and mental factors,” says Steven Petruzzello, a professor of kinesiology and director of the exercise psychophysiology laboratory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

One explanation is that exercise itself is a form of stress, and forcing your body to move from its normal state of rest provokes a natural “fight or flight” response that activates endorphins — hormonelike substances in the brain, chemically similar to narcotics, that are believed to control our moods and emotions along with our responses to pain. This is a popular theory, but Petruzzello cautions that most of the studies that support it measured endorphins in the blood. Researchers still aren’t sure whether these compounds behave the same way in the nervous system. Source

3 Responses to “The link between physical & mental health: ADHD.”

  1. Not tottally convinced! My child can run all day, byke, swim, and in the end come home and have a big problem calming down… she will be so overstimulated that will empty her drawers and scatter all her toys… Also over exercise makes her sleep much more restless .
    Also her concentration is so little that cannot follow the instructions of sports and fitness.
    Even though she gets her exercise daily , increasing it would not cure but make her behaviour worse.

  2. angela; i’d say by the discription that your little girl is on the heavy doses of meds that usually accompany adhd diagnosis. you could try reducing the meds and suplimenting with exercise. the idea being being that adhd meds will switch effects. in people who have normal attention spans adhd meds actually make them hyper, but adhd children use them to focus. if they do not need them for focus after serious exercise, then they could certainly make them hyper.

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