If you want children to be calm for class, encourage them to participate in physical activities before school. Research from Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Vermont (UT) find that children at-risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who engage in aerobic activities before school exhibit diminished ADHD symptoms. The results offer another reason for schools to incorporate exercise into the school day.
For a 12-week period, approximately 200 children from kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classrooms participated in an early-morning program. Some of the students were considered at-risk for ADHD because they exhibited ADHD-related symptoms, but the rest of the students exhibited typical development. The students completed activities in the morning before school. About half of the students were randomly assigned to a group that completed moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, while the other half of the students completed sedentary classroom activities.
All of the children in the study demonstrated improvements after the 12-week program. However, children who exercised in the morning saw the greatest benefits, especially those at-risk for ADHD.
The findings suggest that schools could use early morning aerobic activities to mitigate the effects of ADHD, boosting attention and improving classroom behavior.
“Despite the number of remaining questions, physical activity appears to be a promising intervention method for ADHD with well-known benefits to health overall. This gives schools one more good reason to incorporate physical activity into the school day,” said Alan Smith, one of the study’s lead researchers and chairperson of the MSU Department of Kinesiology.
This research is published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.