Movement Improves Cognitive Function in Children with ADHD


According to statistics, between 5 and 11 percent of children have ADHD. Children with this disorder struggle to pay attention and find it difficult to control impulsive behavior. They are also much more likely to fidget. But according to a new study, this fidgeting might not simply be a symptom. It could actually improve cognitive performance in children with the disorder.


The Study

The study involved a trial-by-trial analysis of 26 teenagers and children that had been diagnosed with ADHD, as well as a control group of 18 participants that didn’t have the disorder. Researchers measured the participant’s movements, by attaching a device to their ankles, as they performed a test.

For the test, the participants had to focus on the direction of a series of arrows, and they had to ignore distractions. The researchers observed how the intensity and the frequency of movement affected the participants’ ability to perform tests that required concentration.

Researchers discovered that in the ADHD group, the participants that moved the most performed the best. However, there was no connection between movement and cognition in the participants that didn’t have ADHD. The researchers suggest that as people with the disorder aren’t able to moderate their arousal systems proficiently, movement could aid them in compensating for that deficit.

From bouncing a ball on a chair to moving their tongue as they work, children with ADHD tend to be always moving when they are trying to complete difficult tasks. While it’s not a conscious effort, children seem to use hyperactivity to improve their focus.


How the Findings could Help Children with ADHD

Schweitzer, the study’s author, suggests that schools should find ways to incorporate movement in class to aid students with ADHD. Schweitzer suggests that if a child is having trouble focusing, you should take a walk or do something physical for a short period, and then return to the task.

By focusing a little more on physical activity, schools could help children with ADHD to better focus. Many schools have made exercise more of a key component in their curriculum, with some even placing chin-up bars in the hallway.