Biking as a Non-Pharmacologic Treatment of ADHD

Lindsay Shaw Thornton, USOC, USA

Theme: Clinical issues

Program ID: LEC-11C

Presentation: October 4, 2013 8:15 am - 9:30 am

Room: Elmwood


Exercise has been linked to improved emotional regulation and enhanced attentional control in normal subjects, and there is anecdotal evidence for the specific benefits of exercise to an ADHD population. Recently, Pontifex and colleagues (2012) demonstrated the acute effect of a single bout of moderately intense exercise on enhancing inhibition and scholastic performance in children with ADHD. The objective of the current study was to investigate the effects of a month long biking intervention on middle school aged students. Fifty four students were recruited to participate in biking program held before school. Thirty three students were identified by parents/teachers as having “difficulties paying attention,” with twenty one of those having a formal ADHD diagnosis. Physical (BMI, waist circumference, balance, pacer), cognitive (QEEG, ERP, Go/No Go, CPT, Flanker) and emotional assessments were conducted pre and post. Of the forty seven participants who regularly biked, significant positive changes were observed in physical, cognitive and emotional measurements. For the ADHD students, there were no changes observed during a one month baseline pre exercise period. Findings from resting state cortical regulation (QEEG) and examining the stages of information flow through the brain (ERP) during the visual continuous performance task, show that those students with ADHD who participated improved attentional regulation. Additionally those with a classic marker of ADHD, an elevated theta-beta ratio in resting EEG, continued to improve at the one month retention measure. The question of exercise as a suitable non-pharmacologic alternative for the treatment of school aged children with ADHD will be addressed in terms of Kropotov’s ADHD cortical subtypes. Issues of implementing an exercise intervention program for clinical and non-clinical populations will be discussed.

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