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4 Ways To Increase Exercise And Improve Focus At Home And School

Add Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to the list of things that might be effectively addressed with the game-changing medical breakthrough known as “running around and playing.” A study in the medical journal Pediatrics found that physical activity improved executive level brain function in kids. It’s just the latest evidence that symptoms commonly associated with ADHD respond positively to exercise.

What The Research Says
ADHD might be effectively addressed with the game-changing medical breakthrough known as “Running And Playing.”The Pediatrics study enrolled 221 kids between the ages of 7 and 9 in a physical activity-based afterschool program for 9 months. Measured against a control group, these kids exhibited improved focus and resistance to distraction, as well as better working memory and ability to switch between tasks – all behaviors that lots of kids that age struggle with, but which are particularly difficult for kids with ADHD.

A paper published in the Journal Of Abnormal Psychology found that kids considered at risk of an ADHD diagnosis showed increased attentiveness and reduced moodiness following 30 minutes of physical activity before school. These findings echoed a similar study published last year in a must for any bedside table, the Journal Of Attention Disorders.

What The Research Means
Beyond the obvious – that schools have a potential treatment for ADHD symptoms right outside their windows – these studies contribute to the growing body of evidence that kids are over-medicated. There was an increase of nearly 14 million ADHD-related prescriptions between 2007 and 2011, a period in which physical education programs nationwide were frequently gutted for budgetary reasons. Meanwhile, overall physical activity in the U.S. has been falling for more than a generation – 32 percent between 1965 and 2009.

Both the ADHD-specific studies also suggest that schools might want to consider scheduling phys-ed classes earlier, or even at the start, of the school day.

What You Can Do
Even if your kid doesn’t have ADHD – and just because he or she has been diagnosed doesn’t mean the diagnosis is accurate – there’s plenty of incentive to advocate for more physical activity. Fortunately (well, not fortunately, but conveniently), thanks to the obesity epidemic, the government is already trying to empower parents to increase phys-ed at school and physical activity at home.

• Check out our Crib Notes, which summarizes Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed, a book that explores how kids develop executive level brain function.

•The CDC has a 6-step plan to help schools engage parents to improve their health and phys-ed programs. If the ones at your kid’s school aren’t up to snuff, show this to the principal.

•Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative has some easy-to-follow tips on incorporating more physical activity into family routines, include simple stuff like making a family ritual out of neighborhood walks and using games of frisbee or football instead of cupcake-eating contests to celebrate birthdays and other milestones.

•Get your kids up a little earlier and run ’em around the block a few times. It might help them focus at school, and you could probably use the exercise.