What type of exercise can help ADHD symptoms?

Mary Mountstephen is well known for her work in education. Visit her website www.marymountstephen.com to learn about her achievements and the help she offers to children with special needs.  She recently posted the results of a study she did to determine whether exercise can really impact on performance in the classroom and, if so, what type of exercise is more effective? Here is a summary of her findings.

Much of the research to date has focused on aerobic movement programmes. These place emphasis on general health rather than the impact that physical activity may have on the workings of the mind. It seems that there is now growing interest in researching the use of a wider range of movement interventions that combine different types of activities to address specific needs.

Some of these activities include

– Yoga, with links between improved focus and executive functioning. Some research shows that two 60-minute sessions of yoga over a 20-week period brought improvements in ADHD type symptoms.

– Martial arts, which offers a structured approach that requires a combination of cognitive and motor approaches. This helps to increase attention, focus and self-control.

– Floor-based motor programmes, focusing on neurodevelopmental immaturities such as retained primitive reflexes have also shown potential to improve attentiveness and hyperactivity. Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) and Move to Learn are examples of approaches using this type of programme as part of their therapeutic intervention.

Combining aerobic activities with less strenuous movements can produce improvements in cognitive flexibility, working memory and inhibitory control. This is why schools are encouraged to allow children to perform aerobic exercise during the school day for a temporary enhancement of executive functioning, needed to focus, complete tasks and generally learn.  Parents too can use this information. Encourage your child to join a class of yoga or martial arts, do some form of aerobic exercise (skipping is an excellent activity needing a small space outdoors) before homework or study time, and consider help for determining whether a child’s challenges with ADHD-type symptoms may be due to developmental immaturities.


Contact Details



+27 (0) 21 873 4951
+27 (0) 82 559 9966
+27 (0) 82 414 4814
+27 (0) 86 691 0051

Email  Find an ILT Practitioner near you