It’s Spring: Send the Kids Outdoors to Help Reduce ADHD Symptoms
Spring tends to make us feel better. The warmer weather, the bright sunlight, the budding trees and flowers, the green grass all can put a smile on our face. But according to research, green and open environments also help to reduce symptoms of ADHD.
Green Spaces and ADHD Symptoms
Terry Matlen previously wrote about a study reported in the Journal of Attention Disorders in 2008. According to this study, "children with ADHD who walked for 20 minutes through a park had an improvement in attention vs those who took a walk through a less "green" area- a neighborhood or downtown area."
A more recent study, also completed at the University of Illinois and published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, reinforced this data. Researchers looked at after-school and weekend activities of over 400 children with ADHD and found that those who routinely played in green, outdoor settings had milder symptoms.
According to the study:
- Children with hyperactivity (ADHD rather than ADD) received the most benefit from spending time in a green environment.
- Children who spent time in open, green environments had milder symptoms than those who played in areas with lots of trees.
- Open, green environments were more beneficial than structured, built play areas or indoor play settings.
Researchers also looked at whether there were differences in symptom relief across different income levels or genders and did not find any differences. Symptoms were reduced in both boys and girls and the results were independent of income levels.
The previous study showed short-term benefits of playing outdoors, in green areas, but in the most recent study, researchers looked at whether routine, regular exposure to green areas provided any long-term benefit. They found that children with hyperactivity who regularly played in these areas had milder symptoms overall.
Exercise and ADHD
Besides exposure to green spaces, exercise has also been found to improve symptoms of ADHD. Regular exercise increases levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels in the brain. Individuals with ADHD tend to have lower levels of these chemicals and the increase from exercise helps improve focus and concentration as well as lower impulsivity.
Dr. John Ratey, in his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, explains that even moderate exercise helps improve attention, energy level and mood. However, he believes that exercise which requires thinking/strategy, such as martial arts, offers additional benefits to children with ADHD.
This spring and summer, make sure to include spending time outdoors part of your daily routine.
For more information:
"Could Exposure to Everyday Green Spaces Help Treat ADHD? Evidence From Children's Play Settings," 2011, Aug 4, Andrea Faber Taylor et al, Applied Psychology: Health and Well Being
"For Kids with ADHD, Regular ‘Green Time' Linked to Milder Symptoms," 2011, Sept 15, Diana Yates, News Bureau, University of Illinois
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John Ratey, 2008, Jan 10, Little, Brown and Company