ADHD and Exercise

Exercise is essential for women with ADHD. It will it help with attention, focus, motivation and judgment, and anxiety and depression.

In an interview I watched with Linda Roggli, Dr.  John Ratey claims that especially after menopause, it helps delay the onset of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's!

Exercise also improves sleep which is so commonly disturbed in people with adhd.

Why is ADHD and exercise so important?

It's only recently that we've evolved from hunter-gathers, and we indeed are not wired to sit at a computer or in an office all day. Our ancestors were exercising naturally in ways that caused them to move many miles a day and, at times, have periodic bursts of high energy and movement. Improvements in blood flow and oxygen from exercise improve alertness and attention and motivate hours after exercise. Exercise also improves sleep, which is so commonly disturbed in people with ADHD.

Did you know if you have ADD, you have a 50 percent chance of having depression or anxiety?

I have many clients who have regulated their mood and ADD with exercise. Suddenly, due to an injury or busy work schedule, they experience symptoms when they stop exercising.


Physical activity increases the neurotransmitters that are involved in depression, ADHD, and anxiety. Serotonin is related to mood and memory, norepinephrine related to reward, pleasure, and dopamine related to alertness, concentration, and energy.

Exercise also increases Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF causes new neurons to grow and helps to protect the brain against stress! ADD and exercise has a strong connection. As you get older, exercise will also help with your flexibility and joints, improve your immune system, and make your heart healthy.

What kind of exercise should you do?

Any exercise will do. It's best to aim for 20 minutes of exercise a day that will get your heartbeat up. Great options are yoga, tai chi, tennis, jump rope. However, the most positive effects seem to be obtained from one hour a day. If you want an excellent exercise program to manage your ADHD, Dr Michael Lara, an expert in this subject, recommends  crossfit,  primal fitness, or  fit by nature.

How can I help motivate myself with ADD and exercise? Of course, ADD is mostly a disorder of motivation. So getting started and sticking to an exercise program will be hard. Here are some tips. If you put pressure on yourself and you have ADD to exercise, you can shut down, become self-critical, or sabotage yourself. Please don't call yourself lazy or engage in self-criticism about this issue. That will never help or solve the problem. Self-criticism will cause your body to engage in a stress response, releasing cortisol counteracting any benefits that exercise would ever have.

ADD and Exercise: Tips

Here are some ideas to help you with your motivation.

  • Team up with a friend, Social consistency says if you make an appointment with someone, you are more likely to follow through.
  • If you don't have social anxiety, make an appointment with a partner. Even making an appointment with
    virtual exercise partner apps can be helpful.
  • Make it fun to do. Boredom is difficult to overcome. If it's something you enjoy, like tennis, you are more likely to do it.
  • Do it outside. Nature is healing and helpful for depression.
  • Do your exercise first thing in the morning.
  • Use the tiny habit formula to help yourself with ADD and exercise. Behaviors= Motivation +Ability +Prompt

Motivation often changes, especially for someone with ADD. Hence, your ability needs to be comfortable until it becomes a habit when the other factors are not so important. So starting small with your exercise routine ensures the practice becomes established. Starting TOO big is often what becomes overwhelming and starts a self-critical cycle.

Pair your new habit with something you are already doing, like brushing your teeth in the morning. After you brush your teeth, you go for a short walk; it needs to be doable and small. Let's say a five-minute walk. After you take your walk, you reward yourself with a celebration. Like " you did a great job, or something more concrete like you get to have your coffee. You make this tiny habit easily buildable into your routine, UNTIL it becomes a habit, and then you can make it larger. Soon it's an established habit. Small habits don't require motivation, and they use the power of celebration and praise.

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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.


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