Updated: Jan 2
As a kid, I was very rambunctious, bouncing off the walls and had a lot of energy. So it’s no surprise that at the age of 5, I was diagnosed with ADHD. That may be early, but I was literally climbing walls. At the time, I had so many interests in dancing, sports, arts and crafts that I wanted to try them all. But by no surprise, if they weren’t keeping me busy (ie my brain) and constantly moving, I got bored and stopped.
When I started running a few years back, I noticed that my mind would wander a lot but give me time to think. Ultimately it would calm me down and help my mind rest. Exercise may give you endorphins and make you happy(which it did), but research shows that regular exercise can raise the levels of both norepinephrine and dopamine which are the same neurotransmitters that ADHD drugs such as Ritalin go after. When I started doing triathlons, I realized that my mind was constantly going because I was going from one sport to the next and so on. I had to focus on that one sport and then prepare for the next move I needed to take, whether it was another sport or a turn or eating. So when I came upon an article called “Riding is my Ritalin” in bicycling magazine, I realized why I fit in well with this sport.
The article was about a boy who was diagnosed with ADHD and teachers told his parents that he would never amount to anything because he had such a bad case of it. So he started to take Ritalin as that was the popular drug of choice at the time. But he also started cycling. The Ritalin helped him control his ADHD, preoccupied his mind, but he realized on the weekend when we was off his medicine, that after long rides, his brain had a calming effect similar to Ritalin and he could concentrate. He eventually quit Ritalin and used cycling to control his ADHD.
In the article, John Ratey, a Harvard Medical School professor who has treated and studied ADHD for many years said, “in some cases, if a person does enough exercise then Ritalin becomes a little less vital in the treatment of their condition.” But in terms of exercise, it needs to be ones that are better brain stimulants. David Conant-Norville, a psychiatrist from Oregon, who specializes in adolescents and ADHD, researched the best and worst sports for athletes with ADHD. And no surprise, swimming, cycling and running were the top. At the bottom, soccer, hockey, and baseball.
So why were these the best sports? “They required a constant physical effort and technical movements that engage the brains functions. Those functions include balance, decision-making and focus. And it’s true! I am always focusing on certain things while working out and competing that my mind feels at ease because it is being used so much. If only this was known when I was younger, I could have prevented taking Ritalin and instead focused on endurance sports. So If you have a child with ADHD, maybe consider getting them interested in an endurance sport instead of soccer or baseball. It may help them control their ADHD and prevent them from having to take medication.