If you’re looking for a natural ADHD treatment, here’s one you can’t ignore: Exercise.
Yes, exercise can be boring. Or you don’t have time. Or it’s raining, your sneakers are missing and your knees hurt. Been there.
We can think up tons of excuses to not exercise. And the bottom line is: you need to get moving to reduce your ADHD symptoms. Exercise is a natural treatment for ADHD.
The recommended amounts of exercise are all different, but the message is the same. Get up and get moving!
So I promise I won’t lecture you about why you should exercise. I will share why exercise and ADHD treatment go hand in hand. We’ll also look at how much exercise you need and how to break through your barriers and blocks so you get enough and even enjoy it. And even share some tips on how you can exercise at home!
Why Exercise Naturally Helps Manage ADHD Symptoms
We all know that exercise is good for your heart, blood pressure, and bones. But did you know it’s good for your brain as well?
Dr. John Ratey, co-author of Driven to Distraction wrote a book: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Dr. Ratey says when we exercise, particularly if the exercise requires complex movement, we’re exercising our brain along with our body.
In Spark, Dr. Ratey describes how exercising immediately increases the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) connected with ADHD: dopamine and norepinephrine. Studies show these neurotransmitters, which are essential for focusing, paying attention and finishing tasks, are lacking in an ADHD brain.
That’s why, if you have ADHD, you can use exercise as a natural treatment. Exercise can help you build the strong foundation you need to learn the skills to manage your ADHD symptoms.
Exercise is like an ADHD magic pill.
Exercise immediately helps control ADHD symptoms. Sure it’ll help you live a couple of years longer like it does for everyone else. But the big exercise news for helping ADHD is that you get an immediate payback.
And one that can last for the whole day.
That’s important so I’ll say it again. Exercise right now and your brain will work better for the rest of the day.
- Your ADHD won’t be as bad.
- You’ll focus better.
- You’ll find it easier to learn the skills to manage your ADHD symptoms.
Pretty amazing stuff, right?
Why Exercise Is Better than ADHD Medication
[NOTE: Okay, let me preface this by saying, I’m not against ADHD medication. I took it for years. And it worked. What I should probably say in the above headline is how exercise enhances medication…but I am not sure that will get your full attention.]
Here’s a simple science lesson to help you understand why ADHD adults need to exercise.
We’ve talked about how dopamine is a brain chemical essential for focusing, paying attention, and finishing tasks.
Attention deficit is a problem of the brain not having enough dopamine or not being able to use the dopamine that’s there.
The aforementioned Dr. John Ratey, of Driven To Distraction fame, has done lots of research on exercise and the brain.
Dr Ratey has found that exercise immediately increases the dopamine levels the ADHD brain lacks. Especially exercise that requires complex movements.
ADHD medications don’t MAKE dopamine. They use what’s there. You need to take action to produce dopamine so your medication will work.
Got that? Not enough dopamine in your brain and your ADHD medication won’t work as well.
So exercise naturally makes your ADHD medication work better.
And if you don’t take ADHD medication? Your brain still needs dopamine. Exercise is a great way to get it.
Another way to think of it – ever see those videos where someone is riding a bike and the constant motion causes a light bulb to shine? Exercise does that to your brain. It’s the electricity that automatically energizes your brain making it shine bright and work better.
Are you feeling lectured? If so, I apologize.
But I hope I have convinced you that exercise is THE essential strategy that you must incorporate into your ADHD treatment plan – and that you’re ready to start some sort of movement routine.
If so, tune in next week when we focus on what routine to start and how much!
Want a reminder of the importance of dopamine? Click here.
Here are other ways to keep you ADHD brain switch on: