A Randomized Trial of a Swimming-Based Alternative Treatment for Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Dec 4;19(23):16238. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192316238.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is considered a highly prevalent neurodevelopmental childhood disorder extending from ages 1−2 to 12−13, associated with impairment across multiple domains, including social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. Little is known about alternative treatments for this disorder. Interest has grown in physical activity as a potential intervention for rehabilitating children with ADHD. This study aimed to investigate the impact of adapted swimming activity on cognitive functions, academic performance, and related behavior of Tunisian children with ADHD. The study was conducted on school children aged 9 to 12 years (n = 40, 5 female and 35 male) diagnosed with ADHD. They were randomly assigned to an experimental group (exercise intervention) or the control group. The Hayling test was used to assess cognitive performance, the Children Behavior Check List (CBCL) was used to assess ADHD-related behavior, and the change in reading and numeracy proficiency was assessed pre- and post-intervention. After 12 weeks of the intervention, the results revealed that there were significant improvements in behavior (p < 0.001), inhibition process (p < 0.001), and academic performance (p < 0.001) in the experimental group compared with the control group. These findings suggest that adapted swimming activity may have positive implications for cognitive function, behavior, and academic performance. This research may provide preliminary support for alternative therapeutic interventions that could be used by practitioners. Moreover, the results support active practice of recreational physical activities as a strategy to support children in overcoming ADHD deficiencies.

Keywords: academic performance; adapted aquatic activity; disruptive behavior; motor control.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Swimming

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.