Lindamood-Bell Learning Center

Exercise Improves Test Results for Students with ADHD

It’s always great when science confirms what we anecdotally know to be true. It happened again with a study published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers at Michigan State University found that students with ADHD focus better and are less distracted after a brief period of exercise.

The study led by MSU assistant professor of kinesiology Matthew Pontifex is the first to scientifically demonstrate what many parents of children with ADHD know from experience—and should give pause to school systems cutting physical education in order to meet increasingly stringent budget demands.

In this study, 40 children—20 of whom had ADHD—ages 8-10 were divided into two groups: one group walked on a treadmill for 20 minutes, while the other group remained seated and read for the same period of time. All the children were then tested in a standardized format for reading comprehension and math. Next, they were all asked to play a simple computer game.

According to a summary of the study in Medical News Today, “all the subjects had better results on both tests after the work out. Results of the computer game showed that participants with ADHD were able to focus better and slow down after making a mistake, in order to steer clear of future errors.”

This study has significance on two levels according to Ponitfex. He believes these findings help justify why PE should remain in the curriculum. More important, for students with ADHD, he notes, “This provides some very early evidence that exercise might be a tool in our nonpharmaceutical treatment of ADHD.”


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