Exercise impact on sustained attention of ADHD children, methylphenidate effects

Atten Defic Hyperact Disord. 2010 Mar;2(1):49-58. doi: 10.1007/s12402-009-0018-y. Epub 2010 Mar 7.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is related to a deficiency of central catecholamines (CA) in cognitive, biochemical, and physical tests, and pharmaceutical intervention may have no effect if it is not accompanied by changes in the environment. The objective of our study was to test the hypothesis that central CA are responsible for the increase in speed reaction seen after physical activity (PA) and to measure the impact of high intensity PA on the sustained attention of 25 children diagnosed with ADHD consistent with the Disease Statistical Mental-IV (DSM-IV) criteria. It is possible that practicing sports assists in the management of the disorder. The children were divided between users (US) and non-users (NUS) of methylphenidate (MTP), and the groups were compared to evaluate the effect of the drug on cognition after PA. Post-exercise performance on Conner's Continuous Performance Test-II (CPT) was not affected by MTP, we observed significant improvements in response time, and we saw normalization in the impulsivity and vigilance measures. These results suggest that the improvements in cognition after physical effort are not CA dependent. Additionally, our results suggest that children's attention deficits can be minimized through PA irrespective of treatment with MTP. Additional studies are necessary to confirm that exercise mitigates the harmful symptoms of ADHD.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Spirometry / methods


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate