Are Sports the New Prescription for Kids with ADHD?
The same week that The New York Times extoles the importance of child’s play, an article in The Huffington Post by Dr Jay P. Granat suggests that participation in athletics could curb symptoms of ADHD.
A National Problem
Dr. Granat cites some impressive statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC:
- Almost 1 in 10 American children are now being diagnosed with ADHD.
- Nearly 5.5 million children in the United States have now been found to have the disorder; that’s an increase of about 1 million in recent years.
According to Dr. Granat:
- Two-thirds of children with an ADHD diagnosis are on medication to treat their disorder.
A possible solution?
In one study cited by Dr. Granat, a group of boys with ADHD were trained in sports and then given opportunities to display those skills within a peer group. Between that study and others cited in the article, it seems that there are numerous benefits to exercise.
An association between improvements in sports performance and an increase in positive social interactions emerged (Armstrong & Drabman, 2004).
Some of the benefits of sport participation include a decrease in risky behaviors and increased integration into social settings (Kremarik, 2000). Specific to children with ADHD, participation in a sport can help to increase peer relations, which are often negative (Bagwell et al, 2001).
The boys also reported greater self-efficacy, self-confidence and happiness. Teachers reported that boys in this program showed more persistence in the classroom and a decrease in attention-seeking behaviors (Armstrong & Drabman, 2004).
Where do we go from here?
One school, featured in ADDitude Magazine, a magazine dedicated to issues surrounding ADHD, has taken exercise to the next level. Says the magazine,
“A school in Colorado starts off students’ days with 20 minutes of aerobic exercise to increase alertness. If they act up in class, they aren’t given time-outs but time-ins — 10 minutes of activity on a stationary bike or an elliptical trainer.”
According to Dr Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, “The result is that kids realize they can regulate their mood and attention through exercise,” says Ratey. “That’s empowering.”
While this method may be atypical for a school, they may be on to something. Our children spend far more time in front of the television, computer and gaming systems than previous generations. At the same time, our diagnoses of ADHD have skyrocketed.
Are the two linked? We have yet to know for sure, but it seems that our sedentary nature could be impacting our attention spans.
Photo thanks to Kathy via flickr