My 10 years old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago. I found that when she does physical exercises before homework, she is more concentrated, happy and willing to work with me. I am reaching out to @Parenting to ask for advices on integrating physical activities at home and at school.

I do not want to replace medications with physical activities since this would be a medical advice and it is clearly not the good stack for that. I want to know or learn from this forum on any advices, personal stories or instructions about doing physical activities prior to mental activities such as reading and doing homework for people with ADHD.

I want to know things like the level of intensity of activity.

  • Is walking enough of should running, rope jumping or rowing for 30 minutes would do the trick.
  • How much time before homework you do physical activities?
  • Do you have personal experiences about this and how to successfully introduce exercise schedule into busy family life?


  • 1
    I think what you are asking here might constitute being a medical versus parental question. You may be able to ask for studies on exercise and it's impact on attention span for ADHD at HealthSE health.stackexchange.com You cannot ask for specific medical advice.
    – threetimes
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:24
  • 1
    To clarify, i want to add exercise exercise routine before school work. This is more what i am looking for in this forum. I will edit my question accordingly. Sep 4, 2017 at 12:27
  • I am aware of what you are asking, I am just not sure it will fit within criteria for what is required for questions on SE. I think ADHD medication & alternative approaches would be a health topic as per the guidelines. parenting.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic All that said, I make my kids go to physical play before school and do so with kids I watch. In my experience all kids are better focused after they get some energy out.
    – threetimes
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:29
  • That is an excellent question (how to integrate it at school?), so I presume you are wanting to know if there is anything you can do about physical exertion during the actual school day?
    – threetimes
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:30
  • Yes and also at home. Also, how to convince school teachers and other specialist to introduce routine for ADHD kids. Sep 4, 2017 at 12:36

4 Answers 4


It's not always easy to get cooperation from schools without a lot of negotiation; our most successful discussions have been directly with teachers, trying various solutions which may or may not be formalized into his 504 plan. Many educators have both experience with and sympathy for conditions like ADHD, and are happy to try accommodations that may help. We've been pretty lucky for the past few years.

It is unlikely that the school will be able to integrate a really extensive exercise schedule into her day. Once she is in middle and high school, she'll get to walk between classes, but I assume she's still in a single classroom for much of the day.

You will probably want to try a couple of approaches: increasing her physical activity in general at home, and seeing if her teacher would allow "micro sessions" when your daughter needs to move around a little to refocus. A handful of jumping jacks or squats, a brisk walk up and down the hallway -- just a minute or two of minor physical exertion to clear her head. In my ten-year-old son's case, his teacher gives him some leeway to stand up and stretch for a little bit (particularly if they're working on a standardized test), as long as he is not making noise, disrupting other students, peeking at other people's work... and while I wouldn't say it's revolutionized his behavior or school performance, both she and I think it's an allowance that helps him stay mellow and focused as best as he is able.

This works pretty well for me, as an adult with ADHD, at work: when I'm feeling distracted, I wander to the breakroom for water, or to the bathroom, or over to a colleague's cubicle to brainstorm. When possible, I go jogging on my lunch break. I have the luxury of scheduling my own time, though; while I am optimistic that physical activity could have some benefits for your daughter, the challenge is negotiating that in such a way that it works for everyone involved.

At home, commit to allowing some sort of physical activity as much as possible. My son hates pretty much every team sport he tried, and we're now trying running. (He likes that in part because I let him use an old GPS watch of mine when we jog together.) I take him on trails for a mile or so with me on the weekends, we go to the park, he and his little brother run "laps" up and down the hallway in bad weather or after sundown... and there's always weight lifting, jumping jacks, pushups, crunches, or other calisthenics.


Yes it can.

As a child I had "ADHD", luckily the hysteria of giving kids meds if they do not conform to the stereotype ot the good-obidients-hardworking-future-corporate-slave was not around.

I had a horrible time in school till I started rowing.

Then I started rowing the hell out of me, making it up to US nationals. School problems solved.

I then went on to full time college, at a top school. No way I could study 12hrs a day!

Then I started (and then sold) a nice startup and guess what? Problem solved.

Every person is different, you don`t need to stick psychoactive substances down your kids throat to make her conform social norms.

Give her a nice combination of sports and creative activity and she will be fine, just be sure to do so with help from a professional in psychology (not in pill stuffing, in psychology! :-) )

  • Thanks @Caterpillaraoz it is very inspiring. You probably had good grades if you were allowed to get into rowing on competition level. I guess rowing is a bit like swimming and these individual sports really help debugging your thoughts. Sep 4, 2017 at 16:31
  • +1 for personal experience.
    – pojo-guy
    Sep 5, 2017 at 0:14
  • @Erick I always felt I had "excess physical energy" and unless something really manages to attract my interest I get distracted super easily. Tricks I developed: 1) I still ALWAYS write down a very detailed list of what I am going to do before start (Today: Calculus. Exercise 1.2/3/4/5 2.1/8/9 then eat from 1 to 2pm and then read till page 100 of the book) 2) Reach a certain degree of physical exhaustion BEFORE working. 3) Having rules also with pleasure: 2 glass of wines max, bedtime no late than 1am. I feel like addictions are easier for people both energetic and easily distracted. Sep 5, 2017 at 6:28
  • Good plan. Will try to schedule my 10 yrs old that way. She needs to start doing it her self with my help. Sep 5, 2017 at 12:38

It really depends entirely on the individual child. I personally need a very high level of physical activity to remain physically and mentally healthy, and never realized it until I was an adult (I was a non-athletic child). It is exactly the same for my son, and fortunately I am able to recognize it in him. On the other hand, my daughter benefits from some exercise, but requires a much smaller amount. Every person is different.

For both my son and I, getting enough exercise makes a night-and-day (or maybe even Jeckyll-and-Hyde) difference in terms of focus, happiness, health and even personality (even though neither of us has ADHD). I imagine this is probably true for a lot of people in modern life, and contributes to a lot of different physical and mental issues, as well as social issues.

My general guideline for us is at least 30 minutes vigorous exercise at least 3 times a week, although there's really no upper limit on what is beneficial. Sometimes I take him to the gym with me, or we even do workout videos together. On the weekends, we try to get out of the house and do biking, or swimming, or running in the park. He is often resistant, but I am trying to teach him to recognize how much better he feels once we do it. Fortunately he likes sports much more than I do, so that helps a lot, now that he is of an age to do team sports with schoolmates. At one time we were exercising in the morning together before school/work which worked very well, until my schedule changed. Now we often exercise in the evening, which works for us because neither of us needs much sleep, and we both get insomnia if we don't exercise. I also personally try to do at least a little vigorous exercise each morning (usually pushups) --those just wake me up, and start my day off right. When I skip them, I often feel sleepy and anxious all day.


Exercise is well known to improve mental health and productivity in everyone, including those without a mental health diagnosis. While exercise has been a core part of my recovery it cannot replace my medications. ADHD medications are overprescribed but it's unlikely to be replaceable if they have been properly diagnosed.

Introducing exercise for my kids was largely about finding fun ways to run around outside. This included time in nature, hiking and physical games like sports or geocaching. As long as I was participating with them they enjoyed it as well and it was never thought of as exercise for exercise's sake.

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