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022 - Exercise & Attention Issues

posted Nov 12, 2015, 6:33 AM by Doug Muha

Counselor Notes 22

April 22, 2014

Exercise & Attention Issues

This issue of Counselor Notes seeks to cover the importance of exercise for children with attention issues.

From Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey, M.D. and Eric Hagerman (Dr. Ratey is a professor at Harvard Medical School):

“It turns out that there’s a lot of overlap between attention, consciousness, and movement.”  (p. 149)

“It’s not simply a matter of whether the signals get through to capture our attention, but how fluidly that information travels.  This is where the attention system ties in with movement and thus exercise: the areas of the brain that control physical movement also coordinate the flow of information.”  (p. 151)

“Several of these patients had discovered on their own that they could use exercise as a way of self-medicating to allow them to be more productive.”  (p. 157)

“… exercise tempers ADHD is by increasing these neurotransmitters  [dopamine and norepinephrine].  And it does so immediately.  With regular exercise, we can raise the baseline level of dopamine and norepinephrine by spurring the growth of new receptors in certain brain areas.”  (p. 158)

“Chronic exercise improves the tone of the locus coerulus….  The result is that we’re less prone to startle or to react out of proportion to any given situation.  And we feel less irritable.”  (p. 158)

“… I think of exercise as administering the transmission fluid for the basal ganglia, which again, is responsible for the smooth shifting of the attention system.  This area is a key binding site for Ritalin, and the brain scans show it to be abnormal in children with ADHD.  Exercise increases dopamine levels in the rat equivalent of this area by creating new dopamine receptors.”  (p. 158 – 159)

“In boys, rigorous exercise improved their ability to stare straight ahead and stick out their tongue, for example, indicating better motor reflex inhibition, which is the missing ingredient in hyperactivity.”  (p. 159)

“An overactive cerebellum also contributes to fidgetiness in ADHD kids, and recent studies have shown that ADHD drugs that elevate dopamine and norepinephrine bring this area back in balance.  Exercise also increases norepinephrine.  And the more complex the exercise, the better.Rats don’t do judo, but scientists have looked at the neurochemical changes in their brains after periods of acrobatic exercise, the closest parallel to martial arts.  Compared to rats running on a treadmill, their cohorts who practiced complex motor skills improved levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) more dramatically, which suggests that growth is happening in the cerebellum.”  (p. 159)

“His experience begs the question of whether exercise can replace Ritalin or Adderall or bupropion (Wellbutrin) and for the vast number of cases I would say the answer is no.”  (p. 164)

“For ADHD in particular, the complex, focus-intensive sports such as martial arts and gymnastics are a great way to tax the brain.”  (p. 165)

“Researchers haven’t quantified how long the spike in dopamine and norepinephrine lasts after exercise, but anecdotal evidence suggests an hour or maybe ninety minutes of calm and clarity.”  (p. 165 – 166)

This article from WebMD also notes how exercise can help those who have ADHD http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adult-adhd-and-exercise : 

The stimulant medicines that are often used to treat adult ADHD work by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. So it makes sense that a workout can have many of the same effects as stimulant drugs. Because of these effects, some people with ADHD are able to lower their medication dose -- or even stop taking medicines altogether.

Fitness can have the following benefits for adults with ADHD:

  • Ease stress and anxiety.
  • Improve impulse control and reduce compulsive behavior.
  • Enhance working memory.
  • Improve executive function. That's the set of skills needed to plan, organize, and remember details.
  • Increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. That's a protein involved in learning and memory. It's in short supply in people with ADHD.

Other articles do too:

The evidence is mostly anecdotal for now — not much research has been done yet on the exact link between ADHD and exercise — but some studies suggest that regular physical activity may help relieve stress, regulate hyperactivity, and improve concentration in people with ADHD. Outdoor exercise in particular is associated with milder symptoms overall, and workouts such as ballet and tae kwon do, which require individuals to really zero in on their bodies, may teach better focus.  http://www.everydayhealth.com/add-adhd/can-you-exercise-away-adhd-symptoms.aspx

And this one from http://www.wired.com/2012/05/exercise-memory-and-adhd/:

Initial research suggested exercise helps reduce ADHD-like behavior in rats, with female rats seeing better improvement than male rats. The researchers also found exercise improves object memory — the kind of memory that is not linked to context or events. That’s when you remember something, but can’t remember when or where it happened.

From there, Bucci’s team examined the mechanism through which exercise appears to improve learning and memory. It is called the brain derived neurotropic factor, or the BDNF protein, and it is involved in the growth of the developing brain. Researchers found the degree of BDNF expression in exercising rats correlated positively with improved memory. They also found exercise had a longer, and more pronounced, effect on learning and memory in juvenile rats compared to adults that performed the same amount of exercise.

Counselor Notes 21 noted the issue of lymph in ADHD.  Exercise in general and rebounding in particular are good ways of moving the lymph.  (Rebounding is like that which is done on a trampoline, not the basketball type of rebounding):

The body has a built-in need for activation. The lymph system, for example, bathes every cell, carrying nutrients to the cell and waste products away. Yet the lymph is totally dependent on physical exercise to move.

Without adequate movement, the cells are left stewing in their own waste products and starving for nutrients, a situation that contributes to arthritis, cancer and other degenerative diseases. Vigorous exercise such as rebounding [jumping on a therapeutic mini-trampoline] is reported to increase lymph flow by 15 to 30 times. Also, bones become stronger with exercise.

Vertical motion workouts such as rebounding are much different and much more beneficial and efficient than horizontal motion workouts, such as jogging or running.

The lymph fluid moves through channels called “vessels” that are filled with one-way valves, so it always moves in the same direction. The main lymph vessels run up the legs, up the arms and up the torso. This is why the vertical up-and-down movement of rebounding is so effective to pump the lymph.   https://www.wellbeingjournal.com/rebounding-good-for-the-lymph-system/

Counselor Notes 17 took a peek at the issue of how candida albicans perhaps plays a role in ADHD. http://www.life-enthusiast.com/candida-indepth-review-a-690.html  (scroll down for part on lymph) notes a connection between exercise, lymph, and candida albicans:

Your Lymphatic System has no pump, such as the heart that pumps and circulates your blood, it depends upon exercise to keep it moving, especially walking and weight bearing exercise. This is so because it's the expansion and contraction of muscles that pumps and moves the lymphatic fluid throughout the body.

For example, routine exertion pushes lymph through its network at the rate of only about 4.25 ounces per hour. However, vigorous exercise boosts this amount to as much as 61 ounces, or approximately two quarts of fluid. Too little exercise will result in lymphatic stagnation, edema of lower limbs and inadequate removal of waste matter from around the cells. It is this congestion that allows infection to flourish. (The Seven Golden Plus One, C. Samuel West, N.D.)

It's a vicious cycle: Because of Candida over-growth you developed a leaky gut condition, which allows foreign invaders into your bloodstream. This results in the formation of antibodies to oppose the invaders creating even more overgrowth! Round and round it goes - until such debris is trapped by your lymphatic system and eliminated from your body.

With the return of nice weather, it seems a good time to get children away from the television and the video games and playing active games outdoors.

Doug Muha Ed.S.
School Counselor
Waverly Elementary School