WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A few minutes of exercise a day can help children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do better at school, according to a small new study.
The findings suggest that exercise could provide an alternative to drug treatment. While drugs have proven largely effective in treating children with ADHD, many parents and doctors are concerned about the medications' side effects and costs.
The study included 20 children with ADHD and 20 children without the disorder, ages 8 to 10, who for 20 minutes either walked briskly on a treadmill or sat and read. The children then completed a short reading comprehension and math test, and also played a computer game that assessed their ability to ignore distractions and focus on their goal.
All of the children performed better on both tests after exercising, according to the study published Oct. 16 in the Journal of Pediatrics.
This study shows that a single session of exercise can help children with ADHD ignore distractions and focus on a task. This type of "inhibitory control" is one of the main challenges faced by people with ADHD.
"This provides some very early evidence that exercise might be a tool in our nonpharmaceutical treatment of ADHD," study leader Matthew Pontifex, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University, said in a university news release. "Maybe our first course of action that we would recommend to developmental psychologists would be to increase children's physical activity."
The findings support calls for schools to provide students with more physical activity during the school day, Pontifex added.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.