Attention improves during physical exercise in individuals with ADHD

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The present study examined the effects of physical exercise on attentional processes in individuals diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), compared to healthy controls. Unlike previous studies typically comparing performance on baseline measures with post-exercise performance, this study examined the effects of physical exercise on attention while participants were engaged in a continuous performance task. Fourteen individuals diagnosed with ADHD (71% females, mean age = 24.8) and 17 controls (76% females, mean age = 22.6) completed the Conners Continuous Auditory Test of Attention (CATA). All participants completed the test twice, at baseline in a sitting position and while walking on the treadmill at a speed of 5 km/h. The order of administration was counterbalanced for each group. A 2 × 2 ANOVA with repeated measures detected a group by activity interaction on several measures of the CATA. Specifically, compared to baseline, the ADHD group demonstrated faster reaction times during physical exercise (25.4 ms faster) and decreased omission errors (1.5% better), whereas controls showed the opposite pattern (15.9 ms slower and 0.88% worse, respectively). Importantly, the ADHD group's overall relatively lower performance on these measures was only evident in the resting condition, attaining scores similar to controls during exercise. These results suggest a possibly hypoactive attentional system in ADHD that could potentially be enhanced by arousal through engagement in physical exercise.




Rassovsky, Y., & Alfassi, T. (2019). Attention improves during physical exercise in individuals with ADHD. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(JAN).

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