Monday, August 15, 2011

Exercise can reduce symptoms of ADD/ADHD

Surprise surprise...the effect of exercise on symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder is being studied. It is believed that the way exercise changes brain chemistry will have a positive impact on people who suffer from ADD. What is exercise not good for treating?

Here is some great information to explain why. (taken from an interview with Dr. J Ratey from

Attention-deficit disorder (ADD), also called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is often surrounded by controversy over medication use and is perceived by many as a condition that is overtreated. John J. Ratey, MD, advocates that exercise should be included in the treatment regimen, and that exercise can even reduce or eliminate the need for medication. An Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Ratey is author of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, as well as several related books in the popular press. He also has consulted on clinical studies pertaining to exercise and psychiatric conditions.

Dr. Ratey: First, ADD affects at least 8%-10% of children, and almost as many adults. It's now considered a biological brain disorder and may have genetic components.

There are 2 basic ways of thinking about ADD in relation to exercise: One is about the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, both believed to be drivers of the attention system. Exercise increases the concentration of both dopamine and norepinephrine, as well as other brain chemicals. I have always said that a dose of exercise is like taking a bit of methylphenidate (Ritalin®) or amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall®); it's similar to taking a stimulant.

Second, over time, exercise helps build up the machinery to increase the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain as well as their postsynaptic receptors. Chronic exercise eventually causes growth of the system. The more fit that you are, the better the system works.

This excerpt from Medscape led me to Dr. Ratey's website and more about his book "Spark".

SPARK is a groundbreaking exploration of the connection between exercise and the brain’s performance that shows how even moderate exercise will supercharge mental circuits to beat stress, sharpen thinking, enhance memory, and much more.

There's no need to convince me of the benefits of exercise for balancing brain chemistry. When our bodies are out of balance so will our minds be out of balance. Some people need high intensity exercise more than others to get to equilibrium yet some people need exercise the brings them down. Either way, I can't see going the pharmeutical route for treating issues with brain chemistry without prescribing exercise along with pills. Doctor's like John Ratey will hopefully lead this revolution in medicine.


  1. As someone who deals with ADD, I know this to be true. It's just a shame I can't use my preferred form of exercise at this point to help with it.

  2. This is what the doctor of my child said. He gave us I think that was 4 kinds of exercise for my child. My child right now is 5 years old and has ADHD. I think the exercise he gave us a really helped a lot as my son sleeps earlier during night. And sleeps longer during the daytime or afternoon.