Exercise Interventions in Children and Adolescents With ADHD: A Systematic Review

J Atten Disord. 2019 Feb;23(4):307-324. doi: 10.1177/1087054715584053. Epub 2015 May 11.


Objective: Exercise has attracted attention as a potential helpful intervention in children with ADHD. Effects are emphasized on cognition, social-emotional, and motor development.

Method: A systematic literature search was conducted using the electronic databases Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, and ERIC to analyze the efficacy of different types of exercise interventions in children and adolescents with ADHD. Seven studies examining the acute and 14 studies examining the long-term effects were included.

Results: The largest effects were reported for mixed exercise programs on ADHD symptomatology and fine motor precision. However, because of the large differences in the study designs, the comparability is limited.

Conclusion: At this time, no evidence-based recommendation can be formulated regarding frequency, intensity, or duration of exercise. Nevertheless, some first trends regarding the effects of certain types of exercise can be identified. When focusing on long-term health benefits in children and adolescents with ADHD, qualitative exercise characteristics might play an important role.

Keywords: ADHD; adolescents; children; exercise; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Scientific Integrity Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention / physiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Data Management
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Disorders / psychology
  • Psychomotor Disorders / therapy