What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder increasingly diagnosed in childhood and adolescence and is characterized by one or more of the following characteristics: strong and difficult to suppress activity urge, difficulty concentrating, and impulsive behavior. ADHD has become the most frequently diagnosed behavioral disorder in childhood. In the USA, it is estimated that more than 2 million children of school age are affected (1,2). The incidence in children aged six to eleven is estimated to be around 7%. The current treatment options for ADHD are largely unsatisfactory as they offer only limited symptom relief and are often associated with severe side effects.(4)
Although the symptoms of ADHD often begin in childhood, the disease can persist into adolescence and adult years. The hyperactivity component often improves with adolescence but what remains are the problems with attention, difficulty organizing and impaired impulse control.
Children with ADHD perform better after exercicse
Clinical studies to date have focused primarily on the effects of exercise on those affected. The main improvement has been observed after exercise. Numerous studies have shown that both individual symptoms and school performance improved. For example, a study by Pontifex and colleagues (5) showed that even a single unit of moderately intense exercise led to improved neurological functions, better concentration and better reading and arithmetic performance.
A whole series of other studies came to similar results with significant improvement in attention, improved control of the urge to move and better school performance (6-8).
Although these results are promising and give courage to hope, their applicability in everyday life is often subject to limitation and the effect does not last long.
ADHD symptoms improve while walking
Walking is one of the few physical activities that allows you to work on cognitively demanding things at the same time. Some studies have already impressively shown that walking improves creativity and memory (9). Many know this from their own experiences. Actors often learn their texts while walking and when searching for a solution we often go for a walk. ADHD patients are often known to meet their urge to move with fidgeting. Several studies have already concluded that the concentration and reaction time of people with ADHD who go for walks have improved considerably (10). In some cases, the improvement was particularly pronounced when the activity took place in a natural green environment (11). Other studies concluded that the improvement was independent of the environment and attributed it solely to the movement pattern (12)
A new study from 2018 (13) could now show that children with ADHD had faster response times and made fewer mistakes while moving at the same time and worsened significantly in the same tests if they were to sit still during that time.
It seems to be of particular importance that the test subjects are able to adjust their walking speed themselves. Cognitive performance could only be improved if they could determine the stride length and resulting speed themselves, against a fixed permanent speed (14).
Walkolution is looking for clinical partners
The urge to move is a natural characteristic of human beings, whereas sitting still for hours has nothing to do with our natural constitution. Although the diagnosis of ADHD is certainly justified in many cases and requires adequate treatment, the rapid prescription of highly potent drugs used for ADHD treatment is questionable.
We would like to critically review our treadmill desk solution in independently conducted studies to see if it leads to an improvement in symptoms, since the system can be operated without noise and allows the user to self select the walking pace.
If you would like more information or are involved in such studies, we at Walkolution would be delighted to hear from you.
(1) American Academy of Pediatrics. Clinical practice guideline: diagnosis and evaluation of the child with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.Pediatrics.2000;105:
(2) Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder—A Public Health Perspective. Atlanta, Ga: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2001. NCBDDD
(3) PastorPN, Reuben CA. Attention deficit disorder and learning disability: United States, 1997–98.Vital Health Statistics
(4) FioreTA, Becker EA, Nero RC. Interventions for students with attention deficits.Except Child
(5) Pontifex, Matthew B., et al. "Exercise improves behavioral, neurocognitive, and scholastic performance in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder."The Journal of pediatrics162.3 (2013): 543-551.
(6) Ahmed, Gehan M., and Samiha Mohamed. "Effect of regular aerobic exercises on behavioral, cognitive and psychological response in patients with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder." Life Sci J 8.2 (2011): 366-371.
(7) Soga, Keishi, Keita Kamijo, and Hiroaki Masaki. "Effects of acute exercise on executive function in children with and without neurodevelopmental disorders."The Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine5.1 (2016): 57-67.
(8) Medina, José A., et al. "Exercise impact on sustained attention of ADHD children, methylphenidate effects."ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders2.1 (2010): 49-58.
(9) Oppezzo, Marily, and Daniel L. Schwartz. "Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking."Journal of experimental psychology: learning, memory, and cognition40.4 (2014): 1142.
(10) Den Heijer, Anne E., et al. "Sweat it out? The effects of physical exercise on cognition and behavior in children and adults with ADHD: a systematic literature review." Journal of Neural Transmission 124.1 (2017): 3-26.
(11) Faber Taylor, Andrea, and Frances E. Kuo. "Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park." Journal of attention disorders 12.5 (2009): 402-409.
(12) Perkins, Scott, H. Russell Searight, and Susan Ratwik. "Walking in a natural winter setting to relieve attention fatigue: A pilot study." Psychology 2.08 (2011): 777.
(13) Rassovsky, Yuri, and Tali Alfassi. "Attention Improves During Physical Exercise in Individuals With ADHD."Frontiers in psychology9 (2018).
(14) Schaefer, Sabine, et al. "Cognitive performance is improved while walking: Differences in cognitive–sensorimotor couplings between children and young adults." European Journal of Developmental Psychology 7.3 (2010): 371-389.