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!!

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