Know Everything ADHD-Related Before Doing Exercises

Know Everything ADHD-Related Before Doing Exercises

Exercise is a powerful tool for managing ADHD, offering significant benefits for both brain and overall health. Regular physical activity can improve focus, reduce impulsivity, and elevate mood by increasing the brain's dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels – neurotransmitters that are often dysregulated in ADHD. Incorporating exercise routines tailored to personal preferences, such as high-intensity activities or mindfulness-based exercises like yoga, can be particularly effective. Understanding and utilizing the positive effects of exercise can significantly enhance the management of ADHD symptoms and overall well-being.

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Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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The Positive Effects of Exercise For ADHD

Physical and mental health are deeply interconnected - when one suffers, so does the other. ⚖️ While many focus on physical fitness, prioritizing mental wellness is equally important. For those with ADHD, exercise benefits both body and mind, though getting started can be challenging.

we often hear that exercise is good for ADHD brains...

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) involves hyperactive and distractible brain patterns that make sticking with workouts difficult. However, exercise is a powerful way to manage ADHD symptoms and enhance overall health. The key is finding activities that align with your needs and abilities. 👍

First, understanding how the ADHD brain functions explains why exercise is so impactful yet potentially tricky for those of us with this diagnosis. Exploring proven techniques to begin an exercise regimen allows those of us with ADHD to overcome obstacles. Finally, identifying specific workouts that relieve adult ADHD symptoms can help create an effective and sustainable fitness plan.

Exercise is not just for physical health - it also boosts mental wellbeing. Unlocking the mind-body benefits of exercise enables those with ADHD to thrive in all areas of life. ⭐

It's because exercise can have a positive impact on some chemicals in our brain

Understanding Adult ADHD & The Brain

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition - research suggests it affects around 5% of children and 3-4% of adults.

It is often characterized by disruptions to executive functions such as having a hard time focusing, being easily distracted, making impulsive decisions, and for some, hyperactivity. The symptoms usually vary from person to person, so it’s important to remember that not everyone exhibits symptoms in the same way. 

Research suggests imbalances of the chemicals in the brain may contribute to ADHD. The primary neurotransmitters involved in ADHD are dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is responsible for focus, motivation, and pleasure, while norepinephrine helps focus, alertness, and blood pressure. 

Our system produces these two brain chemicals through various activities. Dopamine, better known as the "happy hormone," is released when we do things we love and make us feel good. 🥰 On the other hand, norepinephrine is produced as a response to stress. Our brain gets us ready to "fight or flight" with the help of this chemical.

Participating in physical activities like workouts or sports (such as martial arts or basketball) regulates norepinephrine and dopamine levels, which has a positive effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Research suggests that engaging in regular physical exercise has demonstrated the ability to elevate brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels and improved brain plasticity, which contributes to cognitive wellbeing, improved learning and brain development. 💪 

some specialists think that these chemicals play a part in what makes ADHD brains different

Why We Need These Chemicals For Our ADHD Brain

As our production of dopamine and norepinephrine is often disrupted, we tend to participate in behaviors that unintentionally or intentionally regulate them. This is known as 'dopamine seeking' behavior.

For example, some individuals with ADHD, particularly those with hyperactive and impulsive traits, are prone to impulsive spending. This compulsive purchasing provides a short-term mood boost driven by dopamine. At that moment, buying something exciting triggers a flood of dopamine in the ADHD brain, creating a pleasurable "rush" or high. This rush reinforces the behavior, as the anticipation of another dopamine surge motivates continued impulsive spending. 💳

Another example of this behavior is craving and overeating foods with high sugar. 🍭 The sweet taste triggers dopamine release, creating a pleasurable feeling. Similarly, the urge to continually play video games or other stimulating activities are examples of things someone with ADHD can find highly rewarding. 🎮

While these things may provide short-term enjoyment, relying too heavily on them for dopamine can be problematic and lead to financial difficulties or health issues. The key is channeling one's ADHD tendencies into positive pursuits that generate dopamine through accomplishment and self-improvement rather than quick thrills.

We can do this in many ways: ADHD medication, healthy eating, and good sleep habits. However, one of the other treatments that studies suggest is beneficial for adults and children with ADHD is regular exercise. 👇

...but exercising can also be challenging for people with ADHD

The Benefits Of An Exercise Prescription For ADHD

Getting regular exercise can bring about significant improvements in various aspects of life for those with ADHD. 

Here are just a few of the positive effects that physical activity can have. 👇

Improved Ability to Manage Symptoms

Regular exercise can boost dopamine and norepinephrine levels, potentially helping you manage ADHD symptoms better. This might mean improved focus, less impulsivity, and increased productivity for people dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It's a step toward tackling daily challenges and being more productive overall.

Better Cognitive Function

Getting active isn't just good for your body; research suggests that there are several benefits of exercise in terms of enhancing cognitive functions. Some of these cognitive benefits include a longer attention span, less impulsive behaviors and making decisions with more clarity.

Improved Sleep Quality

Exercise can have a huge effect on sleep. Getting into a healthy sleep routine is particularly important for those of us with ADHD because sleep problems can make ADHD symptoms worse and exacerbate mental health issues. 

Ability To Emotionally Regulate & Improve Mood

Handling emotions and mood changes isn't always easy if you have ADHD. But exercise releases endorphins that help reduce stress and anxiety whilst regulating mood and helping with emotional dysregulation

Improvement & Prevention Of Health Conditions

Exercise isn't just about the mind; it's great for your physical health, too. It strengthens bones, muscles, and important parts like your heart and lungs. Regular exercise helps prevent serious health problems like obesity, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. 💖

Even though exercise holds numerous benefits for individuals with ADHD, many of us struggle to get into the habit of getting started and maintaining regular exercise. ⬇️

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ADHD Struggles And Challenges In Doing Physical Exercise

In ADHD, the production of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine can significantly affect our executive functioning

The executive functions include our working memory, self-control, and flexible thinking. Executive function plays a crucial role in maintaining habits; when our executive functioning is impaired, things become boring and feel repetitive. 

Exercise studies into ADHD highlight various challenges impacting an individual's ability to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. 

Some of these factors include:

Time Management and Planning Difficulties

Initiating a routine can be the most demanding part. The willingness to take the first step might falter when we consider fitting exercise into our schedules and meeting deadlines. Incorporating workouts into our daily or weekly routine can be a struggle.

Sensory Overload

The gym environment can be overwhelming for someone with sensory issues The clamor of loud noises and the clanging of metal equipment might trigger irritability and frustration. If sensory overload is an issue, considering alternatives like finding a less crowded workout space could be beneficial.

Difficulty Following Instructions

Engaging in specific exercises, training, and organized sports often involves complex directions and instructions. Due to issues with specific cognitive abilities and attention span, navigating strict rules and guidelines might prevent individuals from feeling able to try a new physical activity. 

Boredom With Routine

Repetitive tasks, like exercising, can lead to boredom. As progress slows, motivation can fade, and workouts might eventually stop. People with ADHD are especially prone to becoming disinterested due to being easily distracted.

Challenges in Self-Esteem

When trying something new, many people with ADHD can struggle with self-doubt, which affects how we perceive our progress and performance. 

This doubt extends beyond just how we look; it includes how we view our ability to exercise. Gender differences and feelings of not being good enough can also play a role.

Despite the challenges, it is absolutely possible for people with ADHD to enjoy and take part in regular exercise. Due to our unique wiring, the secret is finding the exercise that suits our specific symptoms, needs and lifestyle.

the key is to do something you genuinely enjoy

Finding The Right Exercise For You

To get the most out of exercise, it's important to explore various exercises to find the ones that suit you best. However, remember that consistency in regular physical activity is vital. Although managing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder alongside exercise can be a challenge, focusing on the benefits can motivate us to keep it going in the long term.

When deciding which workouts and sports to try, consider what you enjoy. Doing something that interests you plays a crucial role in maintaining the habit. Also, think about the location, time, and company involved.

Here are just a few ideas of exercises to try and how they can benefit you.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise includes brisk walking, swimming, or biking are common examples.

Acute Exercise 

Acute exercise refers to short, intense bouts of physical activity that can lead to immediate physiological responses in the body. For example, a quick sprint, a set of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises, or a session of weightlifting with heavy weights. Acute exercise improves mood and energy levels.

Team Sports & Ball Sports

Tennis, basketball, volleyball, football, or soccer can improve coordination.

Resistance Training, Weight Lifting & Body Building

These exercises build muscle mass, endurance, and strength.

Mind-Body Exercises

Yoga, qigong, and tai chi improve focus, concentration, and balance.

Martial Arts

Martial arts can help improve cognitive function and executive functions in both children and older adults.

Whether it's joining gymnastics, focusing on aerobic exercise, or practicing yoga, it's about your interests and dedication to improving your ADHD and overall health. 

To get the most out of exercising, aim for at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity. If you struggle with this, start gradually with 10-minute increments, working up to the 30-minute goal. As you get accustomed to exercising and its effects, you can increase the intensity. 

How To Get The Beneficial Effects Of Exercise When You Can’t Workout

It’s important to try not to have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude to exercise. You don’t need to throw yourself into team sports or sign up to a marathon to enjoy the effects of exercise and good health. 

In fact, most of the general population don’t regularly take part in a rigorous exercise routine; there are many ways you can implement it into your daily life. 👍

This includes:

  • Taking short walks often throughout the day
  • Using a standing desk or treadmill desk
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Parking your car at the farthest spot in the parking lot 
  • Getting off the bus or train one stop earlier

Although these are great examples of physical exercise, you might need to do them more often to meet the 30-minute daily target. They might even motivate you to take it one step further and move up to aerobic exercise or more moderate intensity exercise such as swimming. 

If you struggle, don't hesitate to seek advice from your healthcare provider on how to effectively integrate regular exercise into your daily routine. They can also advise you on other treatments that might be available to you. This could include stimulant medication (which can help with energy and motivation). 🏃There are many different wellness professionals that can support you with your goals. For example, working with a personal trainer with relevant experience in ADHD can be an invaluable service that can help you stay accountable in terms of sticking to regular physical activity. 

Remember to be patient with yourself, and don't feel disheartened if it takes a while to discover an activity that you enjoy and eases your ADHD symptoms. The key factor when it comes to ADHD and exercise is finding what leads to the most physiological benefits and good health in the long-term. There will be times when you switch between shorter and longer phases of regular exercise, and that’s okay. ❤️

Positive effects of Exercise for ADHD
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ADHD and Exercise: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Why is exercising important for people with ADHD?

Exercise is beneficial for all, but especially for those with ADHD. Engaging in physical activities has beneficial effects, particularly on cognitive functions and mood. Exercise naturally increases dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that are often low in ADHD. This can help manage distractibility, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and other ADHD symptoms.

What ADHD symptoms affect our ability to stick to an exercise routine?

ADHD challenges like difficulty planning and staying focused, distractibility, and trouble following instructions can make starting and sticking to an exercise regimen difficult. However, techniques like scheduling workouts, tracking progress, and choosing engaging activities can help overcome this.

How do you choose the best exercise for ADHD?

Consulting a doctor, especially if you have other health conditions, is wise when creating an exercise program. Generally, finding activities you inherently enjoy and that hold your interest is key. Targeting exercises that relieve specific ADHD symptoms is also helpful for motivation and consistency. The optimal routine will be tailored to your needs and preferences.

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