How you can use physical activity to help your child with ADHD

Children with ADHD can face many daily challenges at home and at school. Finding effective tools and strategies are essential as they grow and develop. These struggles have been a regular occurrence for my family with my son, who was diagnosed with ADHD at age seven.

He has always been an active boy, and we love his energy and enthusiasm for things. But in a school setting, it can sometimes cause problems for him, his teachers, and the other children in the class. 

Thankfully, with help from a child psychologist, teachers, and his pediatrician, we’ve been able to find effective tools for him to use each day. These methods let him find an outlet for his energy while not disrupting others. As a bonus, some of these physical activity recommendations help our son manage his ADHD symptoms during school hours. 

Some methods to try 

Methods for managing ADHD symptoms can vary depending on the child’s age. As my son has grown older, he recognizes the times when he may need these breaks. We have successfully integrated simple physical activities into his day. 

Our supportive physician and teaching staff suggested many physical activities which could help. Not everything we tried worked well, but we have found some positive methods that we still use today. Some of the more popular ones we have used throughout the years include: 

Yoga stretches in the hallway 

One stretch that worked well for my son was to lie on his back with his feet up the wall. This pose improves circulation and helps to regulate breathing. With this method, he could get out of the classroom to reduce overstimulation. It takes just a few short minutes alone in the hallway.

Delivering messages

His teacher gave him a special task—delivering messages and paperwork to the office. This helped get him up and moving out of his seat periodically throughout the day, and he enjoys visiting the office staff and taking a short walk outside his classroom. This method worked well when he was younger, and he still likes taking a walk even now in high school. 

Basketball breaks 

Now that he’s in high school, the basketball court is right outside his classroom window. Since he’s older, his teacher allows him to take short 10-minute basketball breaks when he needs them. He can then return to class, ready to focus once again. This arrangement is only helpful when my son is acting responsibly that day. He is to stay in the designated area and return to class within the allotted time. This article on regulating emotions through soccer is a great example of how it can work. And it can work similarly in this case, but with basketball or another sport your child might be interested in.

Intense challenging activities 

To get a short break and burn off extra energy, my son’s teachers would use brief, intense activities for him to complete. For example, they would get him to run as fast as he could around the school, and they would keep track of the time. These challenges were during recess or when he was extremely disruptive in class. His teaching aide would take him outside to run before returning to the class together. Another option is to try to turn the most basic of chores into fun games—this article has a few examples of how to do it.

Key takeaways

Some days these tools work well, and other days, they don’t. It’s always a good idea to have a variety of ideas and methods for when you face the tougher days. 

On the good days, including physical movements during school hours has helped my son settle into the classroom routine, which helps him, his classmates, and his teacher. Try talking to your child and see which activities might spark their interest. You may be surprised at how willing they are to complete a math worksheet when they know of an upcoming break.

Finding the perfect balance of focus and physical activity can take time. But in the end, it’s a great solution for everyone involved. 


Read more about the benefits of physical activity:

4 tips for practicing yoga with preschoolers

Breath, books, and movement: making yoga fun for kids

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