Reducing hyperactivity in kids may be as simple as getting them out to play.

Kids are full of energy so having them trapped in a classroom all day from a young age isn't easy. For some, it is bordering on impossible and many of those have been saddled with the  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) label. Rather than putting kids on expensive - and in the case of Ritalin, dangerous - medications, the solution may be as simple as some play time before school starts.

Michigan State University and University of Vermont scholars studied the behavior of about 200 early elementary school students, ranging from kindergarten to second grade. During the trial, students were randomly selected to participate in a group that completed moderate to vigorous physical activity each day before school, or a group that completed more sedentary classroom-type activities. They found that offering daily, before-school, aerobic activities to younger, at-risk children could help in reducing the symptoms of ADHD in the classroom and at home. 

Alan Smith, chairperson of Michigan State University's Department of Kinesiology, helped conduct a study showing the benefits of exercise before school for kids at risk of ADHD. Credit: MSU photo

"Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD," said Alan Smith, chairperson of
Michigan State University's
Department of Kinesiology, who conducted the research along with lead author Betsy Hoza, a psychologist from the University of Vermont.

Previous findings have been that improved brain function and better math and reading skills happened in elementary students who were exposed to a bout of physical activity. Yet, it's not as widely known how consistent exercise might improve the broad range of symptoms and impairments associated with the disorder.

"Although our findings indicated that all participants showed improvements, children with ADHD risk receiving exercise benefited across a broader range of outcomes than those receiving the sedentary activities," Smith said.

Smith indicated that further studies are needed to better understand the frequency and amount of physical activity that can provide benefits to children and added that the effects of exercise may be different based on a child's age.

 Published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
Source: Michigan State University