More isn’t always better: ADHD and Exercise

More isn’t always better: ADHD and Exercise

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Today, I get to work out at a local health club while on vacation. This is something I usually enjoy quite a bit, as I just love a new environment to get in some exercise. Those with ADHD know the importance of getting in intense exercise on a daily basis, and how it can affect our moods and our minds (I’ll go into the neurological and biochemical reasons why in a future post).

But here is where I can get into trouble…my excitement for the workout sometimes overrides my knowledge and expertise. I’ll get right into the session – not warming up for as long as I usually do, not having a plan going into it, and not listening to or being in tune with my body. Basically, I’ll end up going back to my former ways of training from when I was a novice. No pain, no gain.

There are two problems with this:

1) I won’t experience the positive effects that go along with an appropriate workout on that day for my body (because every day and every body is different)

2) It won’t set up the rest of my day to make clearer choices in just about anything (healthy eating choices, how I’ll react to my children, attentiveness to my spouse’s needs). I’ll ask myself: Am I present to what is going on around me?

And this is where we need to realize that not all exercise is created equal. Of the little research or articles written on exercise and ADHD, much of it states that it doesn’t matter what types of exercise it is, as long as it gets done. I feel we need to take it a step further and get the optimal exercise for that individual, while practicing mindfulness techniques, regardless of type of exercise (intervals, yoga, weight training – again described further in a future post). Just as not all ADHD is the same, not all exercise is the same. How you do it is just as important as what you do!

Think of it this way…when doctors prescribe medicine, they provide a dosage that is going to help manage or eliminate the cause/symptoms appropriately and effectively. Too little… and you’re looking at an ineffective dose and possibly longer recovery period. Too much… and it may be fatal. The same applies to exercise dosage. Too little… and you won’t get the stimulus necessary to have the body adapt. Too much… and you may override the brain’s ability to keep you safe (muscle pulls, connective tissue tears, etc.).

There especially needs to be a proper balance of exercise when it comes to ADHD. Exercise (especially intense exercise) can help with improved concentration, uplifted mood, and being present. But going beyond what our bodies can handle when exercising (more, more! MORE!) also means a greater chance for increased wear and tear on the body, or worse. This can lead to time off from workouts, which translates to all of the negatives of not getting in the necessary physical exertion that stimulates the ADHD mind in such a positive manner.

So as I head to the local health club, I will:

1) have a plan for my workout

2) warm up thoroughly

3) be completely “in it” during every exercise

4) be thankful I get the opportunity to do it

And I will know that I have set up my day to be better with the appropriate challenge for my body on this day.

No pain, all gain!

About author
Scott Heffner

Scott Heffner

Scott received his BA degree from Binghamton University, with a MS from Oklahoma State. Scott has been a Personal Trainer for more than 16 years, and certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and is a certified Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) Specialist. Scott is co-owner and operator of BioFit-Therapy Based Fitness in Overland Park, Kansas, an elite training facility that focuses on bridging the gap between medical intervention and fitness results. Scott is a former professional drug-free Bodybuilder, and has been featured on NBC Action News, Muscle & Fitness magazine, Leawood & Johnson County Lifestyle Magazine, and the Kansas City Star. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, playing music, and of course exercising!

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