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Exercise for ADHD: Ready To Start And Stick With It?

With the start of spring and warmer weather through much of the country, many people are ready to put on their running shoes or grab their bicycles from storage.  Since the publication of Spark in 2008, recognition has grown of the value of regular exercise for adults and children with ADHD. As an adjunct treatment, exercise improves cognitive functions, betters sleep quality, and boosts self-esteem.

So how do we help people with ADHD start or sustain their motivation to exercise? Unfortunately, ADHD challenges often present significant obstacles. Current statistics suggest that less than fifteen percent of the US population exercises regularly enough to achieve optimal benefits. If people who don’t have ADHD have trouble with this, what happens when you have a tendency toward procrastination, poor follow-through, and getting bored easily?

The solution lies in developing a better understanding of the relationship between motivation and exercise behaviors. There are two basic types of motivation. The first is intrinsic, which can be described as being motivated because you enjoy or want to participate in a particular activity. The second is extrinsic motivation, in which rewards and punishments are associated with participation or completion of a task. The most current research on exercise adherence suggests that we need to get ourselves to gradually move from a purpose- or rewards-driven relationship to an autonomous relationship with exercise.

Most people begin to exercise because they perceive the “need to.” To develop a lifelong habit, you have begin to “want to” exercise. It’s believed that the majority of exercise drop-outs never make this happen. Why? All too often people start an exercise program for the wrong reasons. Most people approach exercise as a New Year’s resolution or when they pull out last year’s jeans and realize they don’t fit.

Are you interesting in “wanting to” exercise for health or as an adjunct to your treatment plan? Keep reading Fitness & Your Brain: How to Start and Stick with Exercise.

This article appeared in ADHD Weekly on April 05, 2018.

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