Exercise & ADHD

Repetitive motion releases neurochemicals that help us self-regulate attention and maintain alertness. My mind is constantly moving very quickly and I need to spend some time every day getting my body to match that speed. Body and mind are inseparable.

The body is a reflection of our unconscious mind; a clear indication of our self-concept. The intersection of body and mind is very important to atypicals because our physical state and brain chemistry has such a tremendous impact on our symptoms. 

Benefits of exercise include:

  • Better Mood
  • Easier to fall asleep
  • Strong and healthy body
  • Enhanced executive function
  • Decreased hyperactivity
  • Increased ability to self-regulate attention

Most people assume the benefits of exercise are gained in proportion to the intensity of your workout. Like a jar of sweat equals one big smile. While it’s true that an intense workout can be more beneficial in some respects, it is actually the act of simply doing repetitive motions that alerts your brain to release the neurochemicals that benefit your attention. Translation: It doesn’t need to be difficult!

An exercise plan

It’s important to prepare your workout plan ahead of time. Atypicals have trouble deciding and get distracted in the process. A plan is vital to success. If you can’t make one, get someone else to make it for you. For example, I’ve found free apps that offer short workouts every day. They model the movements for you and don’t require special equipment.

I live in a small home without any exercise equipment. Some of the simple workouts that I’ve found are convenient for my conditions include:

  • Calf-raises
  • Lunges 
  • Tricep dips
  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Squats
  • Chin-ups
  • Burpees

Another option is to take a more task-oriented approach to fitness by doing a sport or structured activity. These tasks are easy to understand and often require other people which is great for accountability and provides an opportunity to socialize. Examples include:

  • Jogging
  • Biking
  • Yoga
  • Basketball

Exercise tips

Ease into it with reasonable goals

Choose a level of activity that is within your ability. Set a goal for yourself with a reasonable maximum and minimum. Be intentional about how you use the time. An exercise buddy or professional trainer can be useful for accountability. After all, the hardest part of exercising is getting started each day.

Be Consistent and Flexible

Consistency is key. You want to do this everyday to rev your attention engine. Most people find it easier to exercise by doing it at a consistent time. I exercise after work at 5pm because it’s easy to remember after a long day of sitting.

That said, it can be more convenient to break your exercise up and have spontaneous “mini-workouts” throughout the day. Keep it flexible if that works for you. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a choice that will keep your body moving in sync with your mind. Anything is better than nothing. 

Whether you’re consistent or flexible, don’t tolerate any excuse to do nothing.

Set goals that accomplish your objectives

You only need to exercise enough to meet your personal goals. Health? Fitness? More focus? Whatever your reason, choose activities that fit your schedule, abilities, and needs. Start slowly, build up gradually, and stick with it.