5 Ways Swimming Helps with ADHD

A boy diagnosed with ADHD holds his swimming ribbons

Living with ADHD can be very difficult. Despite the common belief that ADHD only affects children, it impacts many adults as well. Regular exercise can help improve brain activity, giving those with ADHD an edge over their symptoms. And swimming seems particularly well suited for ADHD sufferers.

Getting Fit to Get Focused
Researchers (and fitness buffs) have noted the positive mental aspects of working out regularly. Building any habit can be a challenge, though; a 2009 UK study found that it takes on average 66 days. So in about 10 weeks, individuals with ADHD could potentially establish a new way of coping with their symptoms.

When you exercise, your brain releases neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. These are chemicals that are required for a smoothly functioning nervous system, but they’re commonly lacking in people with ADHD. So exercise, in conjunction with other physician-guided treatments, can lessen ADHD symptoms by permitting a much higher level of functioning.

“Regular, half-hour sessions of aerobic activity before school helped young children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder become more attentive and less moody.” That's according to a study published in the May 2015 issue of The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Swimming is one of the most effective exercises in general, and it suits ADHD sufferers particularly well. Here’s why:

1. It burns excess energy.
ADHD is characterized by excessive energy, so swimming makes an excellent intervention. A full-body workout, swimming burns between 500 to 700 calories of that energy in just one hour.

Swimming also forces your muscles to work harder due to the lack of oxygen. To put it simply, you feel very worked-out after a good swim. That makes it much easier for individuals with ADHD to then sit down and focus on otherwise monotonous everyday tasks.

2. It’s (mostly) an individual activity.
Those with ADHD have a need to feel individualistic; team sports may not work very well for them. Sports such as swimming (or track or martial arts) will work much better for them. Swimming, even while on a team, is individual enough to suit those with ADHD.

3. It’s safe.
Unlike running or basketball, for example, swimming is low-impact. It not only benefits your body and brain, but it also eliminates a lot of the strain that is put on your joints by most dry-land cardio.

4. It helps give focus.
Finding a passion drives all of us. For those with ADHD, it can be very hard to find a passion or a focus. Swimming has proven to be very absorbing for many with ADHD.

5. It’s fun.
Those with ADHD can be easily bored; treadmill running may be too repetitive. However, swimming feels more like play than exercise.

ADHD is never easy to deal with. Along with a doctor’s care, swimming can be a critical part of a proactive approach to treatment, helping with ADHD-specific symptoms and with overall mental and physical health.

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