Physical Activity as Cognitive Intervention
Multiply replicated studies show that non-specific physical activity increases neuroplasticity, hippocampal volumes and performance on hippocampal-related learning and memory tasks. Recent studies in children have shown that children who are physically more fit have: superior performance on multiple aspects of attention, executive control and memory; elevated event-related brain potential indices of executive function; and greater volumes of the hippocampus and dorsal striatum which are thought to be important for the cognitive operations. These are precisely the cognitive executive and attention functions compromised in ADHD.
Exercise has been evaluated for possible therapeutic benefit in depressed adults with positive results, but, as with CCRT, applications to childhood disorders has been nearly absent. The ADHD literature is limited to four studies that bear in varying degree on the issue. One correlational study found that children with ADHD who participated in more sports had fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. A reversal design study revealed that recess reduced disturbing and inattentive behavior in both students with or without ADHD. Opportunity to engage in physical activity as reward for calmness and attention improved classroom behavior with children with ADHD. Finally, sitting on a therapy ball instead of chair improved ADHD symptoms in the classroom.
The possible value of structured physical activity in a comprehensive cognitive neuroscience treatment program for ADHD is indicated further by recent reports that boys with ADHD have more negative attitudes about sports, pay less attention to detail regarding motor movement, have more superficial knowledge about movement skills and are less skilled in movement than a control group. In addition, both boys and girls with ADHD have been shown to have greater problems with physical balance than a healthy comparison group.
THE EVIDENCE IS IN: See how students in ACTIVATE™ pilot programs have fared in comparison with their peers in control groups.
Request a Copy of the Scientific Paper
Learn more about the cognitive neuroscience behind ACTIVATE™ in the scientific justification paper by Dr. Bruce Wexler.