Thursday, February 4, 2010

Running and ADHD

Yes, there is a link between ADHD and running.  I have ADHD and when I first stared running 10 years ago I discovered that my attention got better every time I ran or speed walked. I soon after I started using my runs to be productive - I'd practice my public speeches and talks while running, or prepare answers for job interviews, or make arguments for breaking up with boyfriends... later I started asking my husband (or my teen daughter) to come for a walk with me, usually when I wanted to discuss something important or difficult... I would use my runs to get motivation for things I didn't want to do or things I needed a lot of courage to do...

At first I though that I was the only one who got such effect from running but I was wrong. Years ago psychologists started recommending physical exercise as part of the treatment for ADHD although it was based mostly on anecdotal evidence. No more. There is now solid evidence that the activation of the cerebellum (the part of the brain that helps coordinate movement) leads to increased stimulation of the attention centers in the frontal lobes of the brain and consequently improves ability to focus and pay attention. Of course, the relationship between cerebellum and running is a lot more complex but that would be a scientific publication and not my blog scribbles... now, some interesting facts related to running ... Google is one of the companies that decided to use walking and running in order to improve productivity of its employees (not that the company needs ANY more money). How do they do it? By offering treadmills to employees who might want to change their old-fashioned way of working for a more productive one... and their board rooms? No tables, no chairs - TREADMILLS... yes, Google executives make important decisions on treadmills wearing running shoes... well, they are walking more than running but I can't imagine someone (probably one of less powerful executives) getting frustrated with the meeting and breaking into a sprint :) ... so yes, I am not the only one who's attention (and brain in general) becomes sharper and better... it is just amazing how different if feels in my head when I am moving as opposed to sitting at a desk... it's calm, it's crystal clear, it's smarter, it's more positive, it's more daring (I mean, sometimes I will make decisions and then after the run I'd be like what was I thinking, I can't do that!)... so, running is my Ritalin! (I had a whole paragraph right here on growing up with ADHD but accidentally deleted it and now have no patience to re-write it again, did I say I have ADHD).

I love this man's set up ... I am thinking of putting two treadmill in my office, one for me and one for ADHD clients I assess (sometimes sessions last 3-4  hours at a time) ... actually, a psychologist in Toronto already uses the treadmill approach to therapy.. note to self - get a bigger office :)

My daily question to you all: is running helping your attention or decision making processes? Do you run so that you can think better?

As for my running today - 6.25K! Yes, 6 kilometer of chaos-free brain! Priceless! And then off to my nutritionist to work out some dietary changes to my (running) diet. I will tell you about it tomorrow :)

Happy running!


  1. Now there is the way to ensure you get your runs in! I wonder if I can write that off on my taxes...

  2. You should totally set up a treadmill or two in your office! That would be classic!

    Great job with the run!

    And you answer your question - yes, running helps me think better. I often ponder the larger issues in my life when I run.

  3. My mind is totally all over the place when running. I do, do a lot of good thinking but MIXED with tons of random thoughts. Such as..." I wonder how far I can run today?" " Am I improving?" " I never used to run...why is the scale not moving?" " Am I getting dizzy?" " Oh will be so embarrassing if I AM getting dizzy and fall off this treadmill !"......and they go on and on and on....

  4. Great strategy. The research looks good on the topic of ADHD and exercise, but especially distance running, with it's rhythmic qualities.

    If only everybody knew how great it was....

  5. "I'd practice my public speeches and talks while running, or prepare answers for job interviews, or make arguments for breaking up with boyfriends.." wait what did you say? "or make arguments for breaking up with boyfriends" I am sorry but that is messed up...