Is Exercise an Antidote for Behavioral Issues?

Did you know that children with serious behavioral issues “fare better” in school when they are given the chance to move in class and burn off excess energy?

A new study focuses on children and teenagers with autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression.  Researchers, led by April Bowling, who was a doctoral student at Harvard University at the time of the study and is currently an assistant professor of health sciences at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., looked at whether structured exercise during the school day — in the form of stationary “cybercycles” — could help ease students’ behavioral issues in the classroom.  Over a period of seven weeks, the study found it did.

The study states, “Kids were about one-third to 50 percent less likely to act out in class, compared to a seven-week period when they took standard gym classes.”

“On days that the students biked, they were less likely to be taken out of the classroom for unacceptable behavior,” said Bowling. “That’s important for their learning, and for their relationships with their teachers and other kids in class.”

I agree because I was one of those kids.

As many of you know, I have ADD and created Fitness for Health because I wanted to help children faced with the same challenges and assist them in achieving their maximize potential via physical fitness.

Research concurs.  “Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention,” explains John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Little, Brown).  “On a practical level, it causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”

Exercise is essential for everyone – especially children with ADD, ADHD, autism, anxiety and other special needs.  Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and, in the process, stimulates the release of brain-derived neurotropic factors (BDNF) which promote the growth of new brain cells (neurons).  When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which helps with attention and clear thinking. People with special needs often have less dopamine than usual in their brains.  Therefore, exercise is a vital component of treatment and is something that makes it easier to sustain mental focus for extended periods of time.

If you or a loved one have special needs or behavioral difficulties, the daily demands of school, (home)work and family can seem overwhelming. But, by using exercise as an “antidote,” you can become more organized, better able to concentrate and use your newfound focus to tackle new challenges.

To learn how Fitness for Health helps children and adults with special and/or behavioral difficulties improve their cognitive abilities through exercise, call us at 301-231-7138 to schedule a free tour of our facility.

About Fitness for Health:

Fitness for Health has been recognized as Washington Family Magazine’s 2016 Best Special Needs Program and Best Special Needs Camp in the DC Area and a finalist for About.com’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Special Needs Resource in the D.C. Region.  At Fitness for Health, you get a complete team—including fitness specialists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists—working together to create a full-service plan of care that’s expertly tailored to you or your child’s developmental, skill and comfort levels while using cutting-edge, exergaming technology. As a parent, you’re involved every step of the way.

Areas of improvement may include:

  • Functional movement / play skills
  • Gross motor function and coordination
  • Crossing the midline
  • Mental processing
  • Motor planning and motor sequencing
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Locomotor skills
  • Visual motor/perceptual motor skills
  • Proprioception and balance
  • Age-appropriate social skills

Most of Fitness for Health’s exergaming equipment tracks results as they happen, so your child can gain the confidence that comes from seeing his or her performance improve over time. Learn more about our Success Builds Success approach.

Attend our Open House for Prospective Families from 5pm – 6pm on Sunday, February 5, and learn how our therapeutic exerciseoccupational therapy services, and physical therapy services can help your family members reach their full potential.