Using Physical Activity to Manage ADHD Symptoms:The State of the Evidence

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016 Dec;18(12):113. doi: 10.1007/s11920-016-0749-3.


This article summarizes the evidence for management of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) using chronic aerobic physical activity (PA). Known studies comparing chronic aerobic PA to at least one control group are listed; uncontrolled studies and studies of non-aerobic PA are not considered. Key challenges to conducting chronic PA studies with children and youth with ADHD are summarized. After condensing information from widely varying studies, measures, and research designs, conclusions are stated in broad brush stroke terms. Preliminary evidence supports PA as beneficial for ADHD symptoms, executive function, and motor abilities. Social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes also may benefit. The preliminary state of the evidence supports PA as an adjunctive treatment for ADHD at this time, but the body and sophistication of the research to date is insufficient at present to support PA as a stand-alone treatment. Critical directions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: ADHD; Aerobic; Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; Exercise; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Child
  • Executive Function
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans