Develop healthy habits this spring

Develop healthy habits this spring

Spring is the perfect time for exploring the great outdoors; camping, swimming, running or any sport that gets you outside.   Make this season the most by using this opportune time to delve into activities that utilize excess energy so common with ADHD. It may just benefit your ability to focus as well. This is great advice for all teens but, specifically, for ones that suffer from ADHD.

Exercise has a positive effect on harnessing the will power to focus on things that may appear mundane to people with ADHD. Through diet and exercise, certain feel good hormones, endorphins, are released that may help someone with ADHD focus on the tasks they do not enjoy.  So, start enjoying this spring with the usual set of outdoor or physical activities.

According to author, John Ratey in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,

Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention,”….. “On a practical level, it causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.

Finding the right routine may be the key to developing a long-term exercise commitment for your teen. Ask your teen to list activities they feel may be something they could enjoy.  It is always helpful to see what activities would be a natural fit for them by taking into account their body size and type.  There are fun online quizzes to test your interests and body type in choosing a new activity such as rocketquiz.com and gotoquiz.com.

Why is it so important to indulge in physical activity and not, say, play a video game? Physical movement is not an exact cure but, it has proved to be an appropriate intervention for ADHD symptoms. It can be a complement to the interaction millions of students have with their ADHD medications.

The pharmaceutical industry recognizes the need for balance and has implemented a multi modal approach with programs that offer exercise routines and academic coaching along with their medication.  Prescription drug usage, to curb the symptoms of ADHD, has increased exponentially. The prescriptions have seen a rise from 34.8 to 48.4 million between 2007 and 2011, alone. The multi modal approach looks holistically at the student to balance their life with academic strategies, medication, diet and exercise.

According to a research published in the “Journal of Attention Disorders”, just 26 minutes daily of regular physical exercise over a period of eight weeks, significantly alleviated ADHD symptoms in grade school kids. Staying indoors and allowing technology and social networks to consume us are detrimental even without ADHD. The lack of exercise and physical excursion causes obesity, depression, laziness and a drop in focus for the general population and affects people will ADHD potentially more.

Even light physical activity recovers moods and improves cognitive functionality by actively releasing hormones like dopamine and serotonin; this is very similar to how stimulant medications. So in essence a few hours of “fun” can help with the symptoms of ADHD.

So, get out there and find something you like to do! Make a list of activities in your area.  If running, walking, or doing pushups don’t interest you, it is okay. It’s about finding the right fit. Find that ONE physical activity that you enjoy, it does not matter if it is martial arts, a dance style or gymnastics. As long as you are getting the use of your muscles and releasing those endorphins, you will improve you sense of well-being. If you participate in activities that require teamwork and social interaction then you might just make these outings an easy way to make friends as well.

Michelle R. Raz, M.A. Ed., is a professional executive function coach and educational consultant working nationally. She is an Edge Coach and a member of CHADD and ACO. 

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