ADHD Takes a Hike: Successful Health Behavior Change Through Nature-Based Physical Activity

Sherry Schweighardt, Temple University, USA

Theme: Exercise and health behaviors

Poster Number: 105

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Physical activity has been shown to decrease obesity and improve executive function in children, but few studies have examined exercise in the natural environment as an alternative form of physical activity for youth who struggle in organized sport settings, such as those with ADHD and other conditions resulting in impaired executive function, communication deficits, and poor personal management skills. The purpose of this behavior-analytic, single-case study was to explore the impact of a goal-directed, nature-based physical activity training program on exercise time, physical fitness, junk food consumption, and social confidence of a sedentary, overweight pre-adolescent female with ADHD. The participant completed a nine-week hiking and camping training program culminating in a self-selected goal hike: a strenuous, eight-mile backpacking trip in mountainous terrain. During the training program, minutes of exercise time, number of junk food servings, and number of uncomfortable social situations were monitored and recorded daily. Physical fitness, backpacking skill acquisition, and physical self-perception were assessed pre- and post-program. Results indicate that daily exercise time, backpacking skills, and overall physical fitness increased; junk food consumption decreased; and physical self-perception improved from pre-test to post-test. Social confidence was minimally impacted. The outcomes of this study suggest that a structured, nature-based physical activity program may support changes in exercise and personal management behavior in girls with ADHD. Furthermore, these findings underscore the need for further research to investigate the effects of exercise in the natural environment as a potentially effective alternative to organized sport—and a viable, enjoyable lifetime fitness activity--for youth with executive function impairment and personal management skills deficits.

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