I get awfully tired of being lectured about getting enough exercise. Don’t you? The messages are constant and guilt producing. You need to work out frequently to manage your ADHD symptoms, to be healthy and disease free. The recommended amounts of exercise are all different, but the message is the same. Get up and get moving!
I know one ADHD coach who REFUSES to work with clients who don’t exercise. He insists he can’t help a sedentary person manage their ADHD. I think that’s a bit extreme, but I do know exercise is an important part of living successfully with ADHD. I frequently work with ADHD coaching clients to figure out how they can fit it into their busy lives.
So I promise I won’t lecture you right now, but I will attempt to help you understand why exercise and ADHD management go hand in hand, 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 during this time of physical distancing!
Why Exercise Helps Manage ADHD Symptoms
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.
Exercise also seems to help my clients with hyperactive type ADHD release some of their excess energy while it seems to give those of us with Inattentive ADD more energy.
That’s why, if you have ADHD, you need to exercise. Everything in your body and brain works better when you work out. Exercise will help you build the strong foundation you need to learn the skills to manage your ADHD symptoms.
But, you may ask, how do you get up and move now that you have to stay at home and be physically distant?
Here are some tips for exercising from home:
- Check out available apps on your smartphone. There are plenty that offer free workouts – 7 Minute Workout, Daily Yoga, Nike Training Club are just a few.
- Get outside to walk or run. This has the triple effect of being out in nature with fresh air and a change in scenery.
- Exercise simply means moving body and that includes doing yardwork, cleaning your house, chasing your kids. Try and incorporate movement into every activity.
- Get your kids to join in and play games that require physical activity – Simon Says, soccer, Hide-n-Seek, play Tag with a towel or hula hoop, mirror each other’s movements – can all be done while staying 6 feet apart.
- Put on some music and dance.
- Call someone on the phone and walk around the house. You’ll be amazed how fast you can get your steps in when you’re chatting with a loved one.
- Check out the Facebook pages of your gym, yoga trainer, dance class – many are offering virtual classes.
- MAKE IT FUN. Put on music, tune into an audiobook, watch TV while you do situps, jump on a trampoline.
As for me? My go to activity has always been group classes. I enjoy moving my body in Boot Camp and yoga, but it’s the social activity that is my real motivator.
Now I’ve had to adjust since I’m unable to leave home. My new routine includes a warm up, jumping around on a mini trampoline while listening to a podcast (or walking outside when the weather is decent) and then yoga to stretch and cool down. I’ve accepted it’s sloppy and temporary, but needs to be done every day.
Remember — Exercising for ADHD is even more important during times of stress, so make sure you’re moving your body every day!