Exercise Is ADHD Medication
Physical movement improves mental focus, memory, and cognitive flexibility; new research shows just how critical it is to academic performance. (James Hamblin, Sept. 29th 2014).
[Recently] the medical journal Pediatrics published research that found kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function. The findings, according to University of Illinois professor Charles Hillman and colleagues, "demonstrate a causal effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health." If it seems odd that this is something that still needs support, that's because it is odd, yes. Physical activity is clearly a high, high-yield investment for all kids, but especially those inattentive or hyperactive. This brand of research is still published and written about as though it were a novel finding, in part because exercise programs for kids remain underfunded and under-prioritized in many school curricula, even though exercise is clearly integral to maximizing the utility of time spent in class.
The improvements in this case came in executive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks).
James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is the host of If Our Bodies Could Talk.