Forget Adderall: Getting your child to exercise regularly slashes their risk of ADHD and behavioral problems
Exercising is not only good for children’s waistlines but can stop bad behavior and boost mental health, a study has found.
Regular moderate to vigorous exercise reduced hyperactivity and behavioral problems, such as loss of temper, fighting with other children, lying and stealing, in children aged 11 to 13, according to research.
They claim their paper is the first to offer such a comprehensive approach to examining mental health and exercise in young people.
Children who exercise are less likely to be hyperactive and have behavioral problems such as loss of temper, fighting, lying and stealing, a study has found (stock image)
Diagnoses of behavioral issues like ADHD are rife among American teens, but getting your children off their phones and playing outside might do the trick instead of medication.
ADHD drug sales rocketed during the pandemic when many were forced to spend hours inside thanks to lockdown and prescription Adderall became easier to access, which have caused ongoing drug shortages.
The researchers explored data from the Children of the 90s study — also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children — which looked at the levels of exercise in 4,755 11-year-olds in the UK.
The study was carried out by researchers from the universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Bristol in the UK, and Georgia in the United States.
The youngsters’ movements were measured using devices that recorded levels of moderate physical activity — typically defined as brisk walking or cycling — as well as vigorous activity that boosts heart rate and breathing, such as aerobic dancing, jogging or swimming.
The young people and their parents also reported their levels of depressive symptoms at age 11 and 13, and parents and teachers were quizzed about the children’s general behavior and emotional difficulties.
In analyzing the impact of moderate to vigorous exercise on young people’s mental health and behavior, the team also considered factors such as age, sex and socio-economic status.
Higher levels of moderate or intense physical activity had a small but detectable association with decreases in depressive symptoms and emotional difficulties, according to the findings published in Mental Health and Physical Activity.
Researchers said the findings suggest regular moderate and intense physical activity may have a small protective influence on mental health in early adolescence.
Professor John Reilly, of the University of Strathclyde, said the results are important because the level of exercise among adolescents today is concerning.
‘The levels of moderate to vigorous intensity activity globally are so low in pre-teens globally — less than a third achieve the 60 minutes per day recommended by the WHO and UK health departments,’ he said.
‘While it might seem obvious that physical activity improves mental health the evidence for such a benefit in children and young people has been scarce, so the study findings are important.’
Dr Josie Booth, of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education and Sport, said: ‘This study adds to the increasing evidence base about how important physical activity is for all aspects of young people’s development.
‘It can help them feel better, and do better at school.’
She added: ‘Supporting young people to lead healthy active lives should be prioritized.’
Adderall is the most popular ADHD drug in the US, with prescriptions having spiked to 41 million in 2021, a 10 percent increase on the previous year.
This includes millions of children and young adults. Up to 10 percent of school children are estimated to be on the drugs, as well as a third of college students.
Online pharmacies drove prescriptions of the drug over the Covid pandemic, when many Americans were put on it to help them cope with the pressure.
But now demand is outstripping supply, with doctors reporting they now have to spend hours each day calling pharmacies to get the drug.
The problem is unique to the US, with many other countries having far lower rates of ADHD in children.
They also tend to opt for an alternative drug, Ritalin, to treat patients.