The Benefits of Exercising for People with ADHD - featured contributor Colleen Crosby, BZA summer intern!

The Benefits of Exercising for People with ADHD - featured contributor Colleen Crosby, BZA summer intern!

As we know, exercise is important for anyone but is especially important for those with ADHD in order to help them regulate their hyperactivity and inattention. A study by Dr. Betsy Hoza found that 30 minutes to an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise improved mood and focus for kindergarten through second graders. The study found similar results for both inattentive and hyperactive type ADHD (Jacobsen, 2021). One of these benefits is improved physical and academic performance. Even minor exercise is proven to be beneficial to someone with ADHD. In terms of hyperactivity, a study found that short bursts of 5-15 minutes of exercise reduced hyperactivity and classroom behavior differences, though did not improve academic performance (Archer & Kostrzewa, 2011).

In terms of how exercising affects an ADHD brain, exercising increases dopamine and norepinephrine, which are vital to regulating attention. Additionally, exercising  has a positive impact on the limbic system because it helps regulate the amygdala (Ratey, 2020). This is especially important for ADHD because the amygdala regulates emotions, behaviors, and motivation. An individual with ADHD may lack motivation, therefore exercise would be a beneficial way to treat this. Arguably, someone with ADHD may need more exercise than someone without ADHD to manage inattentiveness or hyperactivity.

So what kinds of exercise is best for ADHD? 

Activities such as:

  • Martial arts

  • Gymnastics

  • Rock climbing

All of these exercises involve technical movements which activate the parts of the brain that are responsible for focus and concentration (Ratey, 2020). They also involve strategizing and planning, which is also beneficial due to the fact that ADHD brains tend to lack in these areas. 

Other exercises that you can do at home include:

  • Yoga

  • Biking

  • Skateboarding

Overall, exercise for ADHD brains has many benefits and can be essential for treatment. 


Archer, T., & Kostrzewa, R. M. (2011). Physical exercise alleviates ADHD symptoms: Regional deficits and development trajectory. Neurotoxicity Research, 21(2), 195–209. 

Jacobsen, R. (2021, September 11). ADHD and exercise. Child Mind Institute. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from 

Ratey, J. (2020, March 17). The ADHD exercise solution. ADDitude. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from 

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