Today I was looking for the source of a quote I heard recently, and I found it on the web site for “The Happiness Institute.” Here’s the quote:
“ ‘Physical exercise, three times a week, is equivalent to some of our most powerful psychiatric drugs in terms of its effect on depression and anxiety,’ [Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD] said during the PBS television program Life (Part 2). He has frequently been quoted as saying avoiding exercise is the equivalent of taking depressants.” Citation.
Since lots of folks with ADHD also suffer from depression, knowing the effect of exercise on depression could offer strong motivation for them to get up and get moving.
Exercise has other benefits for ADDers. On that same site, Dr. John Ratey of Harvard was quoted as saying that by causing the brain to release serotonin and dopamine, even light exercise can improve not only mood but also cognitive performance.
And, just within the last week, the Atlantic magazine had an article entitled, “Exercise is ADHD Medication” that reported on several studies. One of them found that a 12-week exercise program resulted in higher reading and math scores for all children, but especially for those with ADHD. Check out this very interesting article here.
Of course the jury has been in for a long time regarding the beneficial effects of physical exercise on health. Now we are learning of its benefits for cognitive abilities and mood!
I have always been way over toward the sedentary end of the physical activity scale. I went through 11th grade in South Carolina where I never had a physical education class. When my family moved to Delaware for my last year of high school, I found myself in PE classes with kids who had been doing field hockey, basketball, gymnastics, etc., since pre-school; that experience didn’t do much to bolster my confidence or my interest in exercise. I haven’t yet found an exercise program that I could stick with for extended periods of time.
But I’m feeling inspired to try yet again. Building on what I blogged about yesterday (the work of Dr. William Dodson), I’m speculating that several of the factors that motivate ADDers could be used in support of exercise programs. ADDers, being creative thinkers, can surely come up with many ways to frame exercise as either interesting, novel/creative, challenging, or urgent and thus get themselves moving.
It’s time for me to stop speaking of “those other ADDers” and apply this to myself. There are many times when I could benefit from an elevated mood and increased cognitive abilities. I think that seeing an exercise program as a challenge is most likely to work well for me, so along with my vow to write a blog entry every day during ADHD Awareness Month, I am going to challenge myself to do a minimum of a two-mile walk plus some yoga every day in October.
I’ll be reporting back from time to time, so stay tuned for progress reports and my observations about my mood and energy and brain power. Want to join me?