I Weigh in on ADHD and Exercise
I read an interesting article over at ADDitude Magazine the other day. Dr. John Ratey (of Hallowell & Ratey's Distraction series) reported on the success Jackson, one of his patients, had with exercise in treating his ADHD. Jackson was able to treat ADHD and Depression with an intense running regimen, even taking himself off medications completely. Could others experience the same results?
According to the article, exercise benefits ADHD by increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine which help the brain with focus. I used to utilize this in my own life. I road my bike everywhere. Worked out frequently. Danced up a storm on the weekends. Then I went off to college and discovered computers.
Now my mind drifts in a sea of constant information and distraction that never ends. So blissful. It's a good thing my belly has grown to life preserver proportions so that I can drift effortlessly with the information tide. Only problem is that when I try to exercise, now my excessive weight abuses my joints, usually causing an injury. I should probably stop assuming I'm still 18. And thin.
Benefits of Exercise
Considering how well I've responded to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in treating my ADHD and Depression, and that I cannot use psychotropic meds due to the drastic side-effects I experience (permanent neurological damage and now on disability), I might benefit from a serious exercise regimen as well. That is why I've begun implementing changes in my diet as well as increased activity. Now I don't ask a daughter to bring me donuts. I get up and get them myself. See? Progress!
Seriously speaking, not everyone can replace medications with CBT and exercise. Although Jackson and I have been successful, we both seem to have a positive mindset that makes such alternative mental health therapies possible. We may also have the physiology for it. However, there are so many added benefits to exercise that you should consider adding it into your life to supplement the regimen you've already worked out with your doctor or psychologist. If you already exercise but don't see any benefits, you may want to consider increasing the intensity of the workout. You may not be hitting the sweet point that your brain needs.
As I read the article, I thought back to my high school and early college years. I was able to do so much. Then I moved away to Utah with my new wife and something changed. For some time, I've been trying to figure out what that change was and thanks to Dr. Ratey's article I may have figured it out: Chronic exercise. Yes, I sat down at desks more, but I also stopped exercising. I have a brother with ADHD who runs marathons. He also has multiple degrees and a high paying job. Dr. Ratey may be onto something.
Of course, anecdotal evidence is not enough. That's why Dr. Ratey cited studies as well. If ADHD creates a focus imbalance, and psychotropic meds can offset that balance, why not a natural remedy like exercise as well? From his own studies, if people exercised daily they usually needed a lower dose of stimulant. Why not intense exercise and no meds altogether? For some people, it was a real possibility. At the very least, they could cut back on stimulants in their lives.
Increased health, stamina, energy, focus, AND you fit in your clothes again? It seems a win-win situation for everybody. With Spring around the corner and longer days, now is a good time to consider adding exercise to your daily life. I am making preparations to bike again. Rollerblading, too. I'll look like a blob on wheels, but I'm determined to reap the benefits again that chronic exercise used to provide for me.
Cootey, D. (2010, March 2). I Weigh in on ADHD and Exercise, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/adultadhd/2010/03/i-weigh-in-on-adhd-and-exercise
Author: Douglas Cootey
Mental exercise is necessary as well. I have dedicated some of my evenings to doing Play Attention (www.playattention.com). It's a mental exercise that trains attention and teaches cognitive skills. They've got a unique interface that allows me to control the computer screen by mind alone! Way too cool.
I think it's important to realize the brain is like a muscle -- use it or lose it. That's why I get mental workouts too.
Good article Douglas.
As for mental exercise, it’s an excellent idea. I like to play sudoku and word games to challenge myself and keep myself mentally tip top.