The Benefits of Phys Ed for Students with ADHD


physical education

The positive effects of physical education are well-documented, but daily exercise is especially beneficial for those students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

11% of all American children between ages 4 and 17 have ADHD, with that number projected to rise steadily each coming year. Children are usually diagnosed at the age of 7, the exact point in their lives when physical education curriculums can stand to have the greatest impact.

The mental benefits of physical activity could have a positive effect on students with ADHD.

Physical Activity and Attentiveness

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics noted the effect of physical activity on the attentiveness and academic performance of 10-year-old boys and girls, half of whom had ADHD. That research found that after just 20 minutes of exercise and movement, the students were able to better regulate their behavior and focus, improving scores on math and reading comprehension tests.

The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute found that daily physical education can lead to a state of relaxation that can last for up to two hours, impacting a child’s ability to problem solve, concentrate, and be creative in class. In the long term, the institute says participation in one physical education class a day can increase confidence and self-esteem, which can be beneficial in environments where children with ADHD. aren’t always perceived the most positively. Daily exercise can also help relieve anxiousness, a symptom of ADHD.

So powerful are the effects of exercise on the brain that some experts say it could be as effective a tool as medication. Thomas Lenz, an associate pharmacy professor at Creighton University in Nebraska, told LiveScience that both exercise and medication release dopamine and norepinephrine, two chemicals that help students with ADHD. maintain better focus.

More Formal Physical Education

While unstructured movement and play can have a positive effect on students with ADHD, so too can more regimented physical education activities.

At University College Shaker Campus in Ohio, the physical education program incorporates a blend of exercise and discipline for students with ADHD. Students are asked to categorize their desired behavior in the class at one of five levels, ranging from irresponsibility to caring. Throughout the class, students are encouraged to remember the level they hope to achieve, in order to ensure they’re working towards the goal throughout the class. Over time, this combination of exercise and mindfulness is thought to extend beyond the walls of the phys ed class to transform the way an ADHD student treats their other teachers, family, and friends.

At the end of the day, there is no cure-all for students with ADHD, but there are definitely ways to better accommodate them in school. According to the research above, ensuring all students have access to regular physical ed class is one of them.

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