Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Acute Exercise Effects on Measures of Attention and Impulsivity in Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Acute Exercise Effects on Measures of Attention and Impulsivity in Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Article excerpt


This study examined the effect of a single bout of exercise on measures of attention and impulsivity in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD (n = 21, 11.3 ± 1.8 yrs) and children without ADHD (n = 21, 11.6 ± 1.9 yrs) participated in the study. After performing an initial exercise test to measure peak aerobic exercise capacity, the children reported to the laboratory for 2 additional trials. For children with ADHD one trial was performed off medication and the other trial occurred on medication. During each testing session the Connor's Continuous Performance Test II (CCPT II) was performed immediately before and after 20 minutes of intermittent exercise (30 sec exercise/30 sec rest) at 90% of peak aerobic work rate. Errors of omission, errors of commission, and reaction time (t-scores) were assessed from the CCPT II. The data were analyzed with a 3-way (group x trial x time) MANOVA. There was a significant increase in the error of omission t-score over time (pre to post exercise). There were no significant findings for the error of commission t-score. In the ADHD group the reaction time score was significantly higher than children without ADHD, significantly decreased with medication, and significantly increased over time. No other interaction or main effects were observed. Further research identifying the optimal exercise intensity and duration that can improve behavior, neurocognitive function, and academic performance is warranted.

Keywords: ADHD, boys, girls, physical activity

1. Introduction

1.1 Statement of the Problem

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neuropsychological disorder that is manifested by poor attention and hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. These behaviors are very disruptive to children's social and cognitive development, and impair academic progress (Barkley, 1998; Biederman, 2005; Biederman & Faraone, 2005; Greenhill, 1998). The most common form of treatment for ADHD is the prescription of stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamine (Bennett, Brown, Craver, & Anderson, 1999). These medications, although not a cure for ADHD, improve many of the maladaptive behaviors associated with the disorder by presumably enhancing dopaminergic and noradrenergic activity in the central nervous system (Swanson & Volkow, 2009; Volkow et al., 1998; Wilens, 2006). However, apprehensions regarding the side effects associated with stimulant medication use (Bennett, et al., 1999; Biederman & Faraone, 2005; Wolraich, McGuinn, & Doffing, 2007) raise concerns among some parents about this treatment option (Charach, Skyba, Cook, & Antle, 2006).

Alternative or in combination with the use of stimulant medication are other forms of treatment. Specifically, counseling and behavior modification methods may serve to supplement stimulant medication use and prove effective in the overall management of ADHD (AAP, 2001; Benner-Davis & Heaton, 2007; Wolraich, 1997). Another form of non-pharmacological treatment that may have promising benefits in children with ADHD, and has been the subject of both anecdotal (Bass, 1985; Higdon, 1999) and experimental reports (Berwid & Halperin, 2012; Chang, Liu, Yu, & Lee, 2012; Medina et al., 2010; Pontifex, Saliba, Raine, Picchietti, & Hillman, 2013; Tantillo, Kesick, Hynd, & Dishman, 2002; Verret, Guay, Berthiaume, Gardiner, & Beliveau, 2012), is the effect of exercise on behavior and neurocognitive function. Indeed, although a wealth of empirical evidence is lacking, exercise may stimulate the brain in a manner that is similar to the effect of stimulant medication (Tantillo, et al., 2002).

1.2 Purpose and Hypotheses

Ascertaining the benefits of exercise in children with ADHD is necessary in order to determine the potential therapeutic use. Therefore, this study was designed to examine the effect of a single bout of vigorous aerobic exercise on performance on the Conner's Continuous Performance Test II (CCPT II (Connors & Staff, 2002)) in boys and girls with and without ADHD. …

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