Many people have known for a long time that exercise has
many positive benefits; it makes us more fit, evens temperament, and can even
make us feel happy. These effects on the
brain also suggest that increased activity and exercise can help improve ADHD symptoms,
including impaired cognition and memory.
Dartmouth researchers have suggested through a series of
studies that increased exercise can be an alternative treatment for attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
Through the studies, researchers wanted to know if exercise had an
impact on cognitive abilities as well as improving mood changes within the
After hearing reports that children with ADHD who attended a
summer camp had improved their response to behavioral interventions,
researchers decided to make ADHD and exercise a focus of new research. Researchers found that exercise helped
improved object memory in rats with ADHD-like behavior; object memory is the
kind not related to context or events.
The ADHD-like behavior in these rats was also reduced after exercise.
Further studies showed that exercise helped improve memory
through the brain derived neurtropic factor, or BDNF protein, which takes part
in brain growth and development. Researchers
also took a look at human trials, and studies showed that undergrads who began
to exercise regularly had improved memory functioning. This study, published in Neuroscience, did show a genetic link to the exercise benefit. In some people, methionine is substituted for
valine at the 66th amino acid position in the genetic code; those subjects
who had some substitution did not receive as much benefit from exercise.
From this research, doctors can look at a child’s genotype
to discover if he might respond to exercise as treatment. More research in this area might also lead to
more natural therapies and alternative treatments instead of medications most
often prescribed for ADHD.