Exercise for ADHD | Using ADHD as a Superpower! 🦹‍♀️

Are you (or someone you know) finding your ADHD a barrier to kickstarting an exercise regime? You’ve come to the right place! Before we begin, let’s quickly go over some of the science.

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is typically diagnosed in childhood and persists through adulthood. (Weiss & Hechtman 1993)

ADHD can affect each person differently, with characteristics usually falling under two key presentations:

  • Predominantly Inattentive: Which includes being easily distracted, struggling to pay attention and easily forgetting details.
    What this could look like: Going to initiate a task before being distracted by something else and forgetting what you were about to do
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive: Which includes feelings of restlessness and trouble focusing.
    What this could look like: Starting a task but stopping to move on to something else that has grabbed your attention. In general, acting more on impulse than reasoning.
  • Combined Presentations: Traits from each of the above (Millstein et al. 1997)

These traits can make getting your exercise done a challenging task. From trouble getting started, to feeling easily overwhelmed, ADHD can be a very real but very breakable barrier to starting on your movement journey. With a little attention, we can make your exercise journey a breeze.

Let’s discuss what exercise can do, and how we can get that journey started.

How exercise can help, and how to use traits of ADHD as a superpower

In ADHD there is a lack of neurochemicals (hormones), in particular dopamine. (Brown et al. 2018)

Dopamine helps us with executive task functioning, which can include: 

  • Regulating our attention span
  • Managing time
  • Organizing and planning
  • Multitasking
  • Recalling details
  • Pleasure
  • Satisfaction
  • Motivation

Exercise increases the production of  these neurochemicals (including dopamine) which can help improve executive functioning and control of the traits of ADHD. These neurochemicals, sometimes referred to as happy hormones, can also act as natural antidepressants to provide further benefit.

Exercise can also be used as a powerful tool for focus and awareness, and can be used as an excellent outlet to manage some of the key traits of ADHD in a productive way.

Beyond this, exercise has its numerous other health benefits such as improving strength and fitness, energy levels and general health and wellbeing. 

Getting your movement in – Adjusting your exercise ‘LEVERS’:

To help get you going, there are a few easy and key pointers we can use. We call them our exercise LEVERS – If you find getting started tricky, pull one of the levers and see if it helps get you going!

  • Log it – Plan a time to get moving and write it down. Also plan a back up time for if something gets in the way. Once you do it, record it, and see if you find when you’re most likely to be able to commit for future sessions. See any patterns?
  • Enjoy it – Pick an activity that you enjoy doing or that has your current interest. Here we can use your ADHD as a superpower! Love basketball? Get out there! Ride that wave of attention to keep you moving
  • Variety – Have flexibility in what activity you choose to do and at the time of day you do it. Make a menu of 2-3 forms of exercise, and pick whichever one sparks your interest on a given day
  • External motivators – Use tools and people to help you exercise; Having a friend to meet you there can help keep you accountable, save your favourite music or podcast for your exercise or use your favourite TV show or computer game for after your exercise has been done
  • Rewards – Put something on it! If you get it done, give yourself a reward. 
  • Smaller targets – With ADHD it’s super easy to feel overwhelmed at the daunting task of exercise – Make your exercise look super achievable so getting started is easy. Start at 10 mins (or even less) of something you could do easily, and progress from there.

Still find you’re stuck in a rut when it comes to exercise?

Fear not.

Getting started on your own can be an overwhelming task, so getting someone who knows and understands how tricky it can be can go a long way towards making getting started easy.

If you or a loved one could benefit from exercise but isn’t sure where to start, contact our friendly team on 0434 451 226 or info@tailoredhealth.com.au

Alternatively, book an appointment with us online below the reference list.

References

Weiss, G., & Hechtman, L. T. (1993). Hyperactive children grown up: ADHD in children, adolescents, and adults. Guilford Press.

Millstein, R. B., Wilens, T. E., Biederman, J., & Spencer, T. J. (1997). Presenting ADHD symptoms and subtypes in clinically referred adults with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 2(3), 159-166.

Brown, K. A., Samuel, S., & Patel, D. R. (2018). Pharmacologic management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: a review for practitioners. Translational pediatrics, 7(1), 36–47. https://doi.org/10.21037/tp.2017.08.02

Roselló, B., Berenguer, C., Baixauli, I., Mira, Á., Martinez-Raga, J., & Miranda, A. (2020). Empirical examination of executive functioning, ADHD associated behaviors, and functional impairments in adults with persistent ADHD, remittent ADHD, and without ADHD. BMC psychiatry, 20(1), 134. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02542-y

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