Pilot physical activity intervention reduces severity of ADHD symptoms in young children

J Atten Disord. 2013 Jan;17(1):70-82. doi: 10.1177/1087054711417395. Epub 2011 Aug 25.


Objective: Physical activity associates with mental health and neurocognitive function, showing potential for addressing ADHD symptoms. As a preliminary assessment of this potential, the authors piloted a before-school physical activity intervention for young children.

Method: Seventeen children (Grades K-3) exhibiting four or more hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms on the Disruptive Behavior Disorders Rating Scale (Pelham, 2002) completed about 26 min of continuous moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily over eight school weeks. The authors administered cognitive, motor, social, and behavioral functioning measures at pre- and postprogram, assessed response inhibition weekly, and coded negative behaviors daily.

Results: Several measures showed significant or marginally significant change over time (effect size = 0.35-0.96) with additional measures showing meaningful effect size values (≥ 0.20). Response inhibition effects were most consistent. Most participants (64% to 71%) exhibited overall improvement according to postprogram parent, teacher, and program staff ratings.

Conclusion: Physical activity shows promise for addressing ADHD symptoms in young children.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise Therapy* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychological Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index