Why Exercise Helps ADHD

Exercise is one of those things that you know you ‘should’ do, but it is often seen as a luxury activity to be done when everything else on your to list is complete. However, in this video, Dr John Ratey, co-author of the distraction books, Driven to Distraction, Answers to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, presents compelling evidence why regular exercise is a must for everyone living with ADHD.

“Exercise as a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin’ says Dr Ratey.

While working in Boston, Dr Ratey noticed when runners were injured and forced to stop running they experience problems of depression and ADHD symptoms, such as  difficulty with planning, procrastination and paying attention. He realized that these runners, who had huge success in their careers  had been self-medicating their ADHD with exercise.

Traditionally we think exercise is for our bodies;  however, Dr Ratey says exercise is really for our brains. The physical movement switches our brains ‘on’ and positively affects our executive functions which include:

  • Planning
  • Organization
  • Initiating  action
  • Delaying a reaction
  • Ability to learn from mistakes
  • Sustain focus
  • Working memory

Exercise creates

  • A lot of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which we know is lower in the brains of people with ADHD.
  • BDNF or Brain derived neurotrophic factor,which Dr Ratey affectionately calls, “Miracle Grow For The Brain”, as it keeps our brain cells young.

Besides ADHD, Dr Ratey realized that exercise was a treatment for lots of disorders,  including ones that co-exist with ADHD. For example a study at Duke University found exercise improved our emotions including depression, anxiety and aggression.

Exercise also facilitates learning, as it turns on the attention, motivation and memory system and allows our brain cells to grow and sprout, which is how we learn everything.

Dr Ratey says

“the fitter you are, the better learner you are”

which might in itself be a motivation as adults with ADHD are lifelong learners.

A school in Naperville got their pupils to do 45 minutes of exercise every day. Look at the amazing benefits these children experienced:

Cognitive benefits

Every 4 years countries take a TIMSS test, which stands for Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.  Usually the USA ranks in the low to mid teens. However, the Naperville school took the test as a country and came Number 1 in the world in Science and 6th in Math.

Physical benefits

There was no obesity and only 3% of the children were overweight, at a time when the national average was 35%.

Exercise also helps behavior. At a school in Northern Ontario, there was a class of 25 disruptive pupils.  If they were particularly disruptive they were suspended. Once these pupils started an exercise program the suspension rate went down from 95 days in a semester to just 5 days. In addition, absenteeism went down. The kids were motivated to go to school and participate in class.

Here is the video. Hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you to start exercising!!

Why do ADHDers Find it Difficult to Have an Organized Space?

Tidying UpLiving in a cluttered, unorganized environment is a common thing when you have ADHD. However, being surrounded by ‘stuff’ can make your ADHD symptoms worse. It is harder to focus and concentrate. It is easier to lose important items like keys and important paperwork, and it can also exacerbate coexisting conditions such as anxiety.

Here are 8 reasons why ADHDers find it hard to have an organized space

1) Distraction

You might start one activity, get distracted and then you start working on a second activity leaving the items from the first activity lying around.

2) Out of Sight, Out of Mind

You don’t like to put belongings away in cupboards because you are scared that you will forget about them.

3) Procrastination

Tidying up is one of those boring mundane tasks that ADHDers hate to do. This means that you keep putting it off for another day.

4) Memory

You keep newspaper articles and other objects as visual reminders of things you want to do and see. Your fear of forgetting means you accumulate lots of items, and they are difficult to keep organized.

5) Collector

ADHDers love to collect things: teapots, baseball caps, pens, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is; I bet you collect at least one thing. These collections can grow large and are tricky to keep organized.

6) Overwhelmed

You feel overwhelmed just looking at your cluttered space, and you feel parallelized, fatigued and can’t take any action.

7) Don’t Know How

You honestly never learned how to be tidy and organized. It’s not an excuse, but being tidy and organized isn’t a skill that you were born with and maybe no one taught you how to do it properly.

8) Decisions, Decisions

Organizing requires many decisions in a short space of time.

Making decisions is hard when you have ADHD. It takes mental effort, and you might second guess your decision or beat yourself up for making the ‘wrong’ decision.

How many of those points resonated with you? Don’t worry if it was all of them!

The opposite of a disorganized cluttered space, is a calm, peaceful one in which you know where your belongings are, and you feel happy to invite an unexpected visitor into your home. How do you create that space? With the help of a brilliant book by Marie Kondo called, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”.

The difference between this book and every other book written about organizing is that you ask yourself a different question. Rather than asking ‘what could I throw out’, you ask ‘what do I want to keep’. Marie suggests holding each item and asking “Does this bring me joy?” If it does, then you keep it, and if not, it is time to say goodbye.

It’s simple yet very powerful!

This simple question is very helpful for ADHDers because it cuts out all the mental negotiating that can happen in your mind. You don’t have to consider if the item was a gift, if you used it in the last year or, if you might need it again. Just ask one question, “Does this bring me joy?”

Here are 3 of my favorite tips from the book that I think will help you too.

1) Pick an Area You Want to Declutter

Start small, maybe a shelf. Remove everything from the shelf. Next, only put back  the things that bring your joy. After  you have tried the technique on a small area, and experienced for yourself how easy and fun it was, you will be very motivated to continue.

2) Start with Items That are Easier to Part With

Marie says people have trouble throwing out things that have:

Functional value (when you could still use the item)

Information value (has information you think you might need)

Emotional value (being anything sentimental)

Don’t start with any of these things! It will sabotage your good intentions. Instead, pick a category that will be easy for you. Marie suggests starting with clothes.

3) Don’t Let Your Family See What You are Getting Rid of

When people see what you are donating, they might seem shocked and you might find yourself second guessing your decisions. You have done so well to get to the donate / throw out stage; you don’t want a third person to change your mind.

With fewer items in your space, it is much easier to keep the area clean and tidy without even trying!

Have you tried any of these suggestions?

10 Reasons Why Pets are Awesome for ADHDers.

  Pets can have very positive effects on your ADHD symptoms. "Pets, in studies, have been found to lower blood pressure and improve overall quality of life.  Dogs especially help get people exercising - and exercising has been found to be … [Continue reading]

The ADHD Filing System

adhd filing system

Do you have a filing system? Or more of a piling system? If you have ADHD, just thinking of filing your papers away in a filing cabinet can fill you with dread. There are 4 Very Good Reasons to Have a Filing System. 1) Peace of Mind Knowing … [Continue reading]

ADHD and Weekly Reviews

ADHD and Weekly Reviews

One of the characteristics of ADHD is not always learning from your experiences. It might be because you are in rush and dashing to the next task or appointment or because you are distracted or perhaps your mind is so full that there isn’t room for … [Continue reading]

How to Get Out of Bed When You Have ADHD


Getting out of bed in the morning is an essential part of life. Many people do it without ever giving it much thought. It is just something they do, like breathing. However, people with ADHD give the topic lots of thought! This is because  it doesn’t … [Continue reading]

The ADHD-Friendly Way to Plan Your Summer

picnic basket

Summer is usually the most anticipated season; yet, it also seems to be the one that speeds by the fastest. Our summers as a child seemed endless.  As an adult, time not only does travel faster, but when you have ADHD, it is very easy to get … [Continue reading]

Does Your Boss Make Your ADHD Worse?

Does Your Boss Make Your ADHD Worse?

Bosses have a huge impact on ADHD adults’ ability to succeed in the work place. It all hinges on their personality and leadership style. Have you noticed when you spend time with certain people, you feel smart, on the ball and performing at your … [Continue reading]

What Is On Your ‘Don’t Do’ List?


The Don’t Do List idea comes from 2 articles I read that reframe the concept of productivity. Rather than productivity just being about what you Do, it is also about what you Don’t Do. ADHDers love to be productive; they will forfeit sleep, … [Continue reading]

10 Reasons Why ADHD Dads Are AWESOME

Dads and ADHD

1. You Normalize ADHD If you have ADHD, then there is a good chance one (or more) of your children has ADHD too. Children don’t like to be different; you might be the only person they know who has ADHD. By being open about your ADHD, you are … [Continue reading]

Nature and ADHD

nature and adhd

Did You Know There is a Positive Link Between Spending Time In Nature and ADHD? Researchers at the University of Illinois found that 20 minutes in nature (green therapy) helps reduce unwanted symptoms of Adult ADHD among its participants. One of … [Continue reading]