How Exercise Can Help with ADHD (and How to Actually Do It)

How Exercise Can Help with ADHD (and How to Actually Do It)

Hello brains! Today I’m going to talk
about exercise. W-wait! Where are you going?! Okay, okay. I get it. We all know that
exercise is supposed to be good for us. Most of us are pretty sick of hearing
about it actually. So why aren’t we all doing 30 to 60 minutes of it three to
five times a week. Plenty of reasons; too tired, too boring, abs are for people who
haven’t realized there are more important things in life. Many of us do
try but it’s pretty hard for most people to stick to a regular exercise routine,
and the executive function challenges that come with ADHD can make it
especially difficult. Also, ADHD schedules can be pretty hectic, and when we get
busy, self-care like exercise is often the first thing to go. I’m no exception.
When this channel started to take off, I decided having more time to work on it,
was more important than going to play tennis with a friend. Who cares that my
tummy’s a little doughy. I’ve got videos to make you guys can’t see it anyway. (Taps stomach)
Freedom! What I forgot to factor in is that exercise isn’t necessarily for the
body. It’s also amazing for the brain ADHD brains in particular. But is it
worth all the time and effort, to work out just for the brain benefits? How
exactly does exercise affect our brain? Ready… wait for it. Cool science stuff. (Music). So when you exercise what actually
happens in your brain? I spent a month and a half looking into it. With the help of
doctoral candidates, Patrick A. LaCount, who happens to be researching the impact
of exercise on ADHD. Scientifically speaking when you exercise there’s
basically a huge, neurotransmitter party in your brain. During exercise your body
releases happy chemical, a.k.a endorphins! You may have heard of them. At the same
time exercise also boosts dopamine and norepinephrine. The same
neurotransmitters that stimulant medication increases, in order to help us
focus. “Whaaa.” This all happens pretty quickly, which is why you tend to feel happier,
and more productive for an hour or two after you workout.
It’s also why you might sleep better that night and not feel as stressed. But
there’s a long-term brain benefit too, and it’s something you’ve probably never
heard of. Exercise increases production of something called BDNF. BDNF is a
protein, that basically acts like fertilizer for the brain. How? It promotes
neurogenesis, a.k.a, the creation of new brain cells. Yes fellow nerds! When you
exercise you are literally growing your brain! All right I’m sold! What do I have
to do? *All* exercise benefits ADHD brains. So do what’s fun for you. Do whatever kind of exercise you like to do. If you don’t
like doing any kind of exercise, don’t exercise. Just go do stuff you like to do
that happens to involve moving your body. Your whole body. Technically that counts.
How do you know what you like to do, that involves moving if you don’t normally do
things that involve moving? Start with your interests. I love dogs. I love learning.
I always wished I knew how to dance. Hey! Like video games? Try ‘Dance Dance
revolution. Harry Potter? Quidditch! Yes, this is a real thing! They’re ‘quiditching’!
What?! There are so many interesting things to do. There’s no reason to do stuff you
don’t like. Of course even once we find something we like to do, it can still be
hard getting out the door. So here are some strategies that might help:
accountability. If I’m the only one who will know if I didn’t do yoga that day
I’m not doing yoga. Showing up for tennis got a lot easier, once I had a regular
tennis partner. If I didn’t show up, he didn’t get to play. Preparation. Who moved my tennis racket! Why don’t I have any clean socks! Where did I put my car? Don’t wait
till the last minute to get started. While you’re feeling motivated, go ahead
and sign up for the class ahead of time, pack gym bag, lay out your clothes the
night before. Sleep in them if you have to! Make things as easy on yourself as
possible. If it’s easier to go than to cancel you’re more likely to go. Novelty.
It’s easy for us to get bored even if it’s something we like, and that makes
exercising so much harder. So buy yourself a new outfit. Look up a new
trail to hike. Have at least a couple of activities you can choose from, so you
can do what you feel like doing that day. Try the latest fitness craze. I did that.
It’s hard! What it looks like is, “Ah, I’m upside down.” What it’s really like is, “AH!
I’m upside down! It’s not as relaxing as it looks. Start slow. After learning all this stuff, I was so excited about how much exercise
benefits my brain, I spent 30 minutes racing around the house and promptly
hurt my back. Guess how much moving I did after that? Trick question! I had to move
my whole house. That was not fun. Do not recommend. Exercise at a regular time.
I try to move in the morning if I possibly can, because after that… life.
But choose whatever time of the day works for you. Maybe jogging after work helps you
clear your mind. Or swimming at night helps you relax before bed. Reward
yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything huge but it’s best if you work it right
into your routine. Maybe you get to watch netflix on your phone when you’re
running at the gym. I used to get my favorite smoothie after class. Yay!
Instant feedback! And finally but arguably most importantly. Track your
activity. Not how many reps you did or how much you weigh – that’s not what
we’re here for. Just track: what you did, for how long, how enjoyable it was, and
how it affected whatever it is you care about. In my case I’m tracking sleep
focus and stress – especially stress! This will help you find what type and length
of movement works best for your brain. Not someone else’s! By the way if you
meant to do something and didn’t do it, that’s worth tracking too. Not so you can beat
yourself up over it, but so that you can start to see what gets in your way and
move it. Or so that you can find something else that you like enough that
you’ll actually want to go. That’s it for this week. Check with a doctor before
starting any exercise program. I am NOT a doctor. Especially if… Especially that
last one. Yeah! Just because we feel invincible
doesn’t mean we are. If you liked this episode, subscribe and if you love this
episode and want to help me make more, consider donating to my patreon page.
Like these brains did! Thank you to all of my patreon brains It’s because of you
that Edward and I are able to put so much time into this channel. Each episode
takes us anywhere from 40 to 80 hours to make. On top of testing out the
strategies. And you’re the ones making that possible. Let me know what gets you
moving. Comment below hit me up on Facebook or Twitter, and I
will see you next week. Bye brains! Question time!
Hey what’s happened to question time? I’ll be honest I keep forgetting to do
it, but no more. Ask me questions in the comments below and I will pick one to
answer at the end of next week’s video. And if you remember Patrick from earlier
in the episode, he’s joined our team as a research consultant. Patrick
volunteered because he’s passionate about spreading up-to-date scientific
understanding about ADHD. So science and brain based questions are great too!

100 thoughts on “How Exercise Can Help with ADHD (and How to Actually Do It)

  1. Does Patrick need any help? Just completing MS (finish up this summer – Woot! Woot!) in General Psych and passions in ADHD and anxiety / brain chemistry / nutrition / physiological implications of various activities and nutrition. 200 hours + yoga teacher training, nutrition education, massage therapy (AOS in Therapeutic Massage).. and other aspects of wellness. Also taking additional courses on the subject of Nutritional Psychology. I would love to help in anyway I can!!

  2. I am different from the usual i guess. Exercise is basically the only thing I can do consistently in my life. Lifting 3 times a week and Dance Dance Revolution 3-5 times. However it takes me FOREVER because of the ADHD. I sometimes am sitting outside the gym like 10-15 minutes doing absolutely nothing. And then I end up taking too long between my reps and sets so my workouts take way too long. This leads to me not being able to do much else in my free time. I love exercise but it's also frustrating how much time out of my life it takes me and wish i had more time for more things. I have tried morning routines and i feel so good during the day but i have the problem of not being able to wake up so i cant get into that pattern

  3. I've always had this feeling, like how when you immediately get burned you jerk your arm away from whatever Burns you, even before I could form spots with language I knew to equate; [running equals good] and now I know Why, climbing trees and bouldering is great, running on the sea shore covered in large rocks, running down the jetty feels great, it's not entirely level with the stones to I adjust my movement and it's GREAT

  4. Love love love your videos. But question. Let's say I go to the gym in the mornings. (I know you're not a doctor) when should I take my meds. I find they work best in the mornings. But the gym seems to be good for that. But I can't take my meds too late either. But need them… any suggestions.?

  5. I think I like excercising because of what's called "the pump". I do the excersise and I see the effects right away.( they go away in like an hour) but that immediate satisfaction is what I like. It's not the way most people do But "chasing the pump" is definately the way to get a "brain" In the gym. Great vids! I love this!

  6. Thank you for this amazing channel as some one just Diagnosed with ADHD in my late 30 I have been watch your video and have learned a lot of stuff thank you.

  7. I have a question. I'm 15, and got recently diagnosed with ADD. The first thing my doctor wanted to do, was giving me some meds before I got the chance to speak to a psychologist. Shall I stop with the meds, due to the brain damage it causes??

  8. After exercise I am furious. I get mad at people who have no part in the strain of the exercise. Once I almost caused a traffic accident after exercise. I do not feel the happy neurotransmitters. I went to fitness clubs, had a twice a week appointment to go swimming, nothing helped. Ok, I didn't give up after two or three attempts, I kept up for almost two years with swimming. I used to like swimming. No longer. Strangely the fury sets in after the heart beat and breathing is back to normal which is after I put on street clothes and go to my car. If you'd dared to ask me for the exact time at that moment, I'd screamed at you. Exercise messes with my brain.

  9. I found that martial arts (boxing, krav maga, BJJ) or CrossFit work the best.
    They are ADHD friendly…
    1) you always do something different
    2) if you drift – it hurts and you won't drift anymore
    3) your blood/brain chem with improving fast

    How to overcome challenges
    0) sticking to it – just go 2x per week, same times, same days no more no less… why because we AD(H)D will start 5x and then becomes 3….1…..0… 3 months and you have a routine
    1) I am not fit – so was everyone who started. I have seen every profile at the gym. Consult your doc, tell what you want to try and ask what to pay attention for
    2) it's too far, pick a place next to your home
    3) I don't know anyone else, ask a friend to join (and keep you in check)
    4) don't give up, one day you will feel sick, maybe puke, that means you worked your butt off… be proud

    Task: show-up on time, then follow the flow

  10. I love hockey, but hockey is expensive and 10pm games😱. So it's more of an every-other-season, summer league thing.
    but basketball is cheaper and I finally found a rec league with co-ed and women's teams! (It's sad how hard it was to find one).
    Walking the stairs at work👍🏻
    Chasing the toddler👍🏻
    Walking the dog… harder, but good.
    Running is actually very fun, but that's another hard one to start on any given day. Good motivation: sign up for 5ks when you can afford to. Find silly ones, where you can wear costumes or hats, run through glow lights, or throw colored powder at people, or just support a cause you like. For anyone who doesn't already run: couch to 5k plans are very effective. I never thought I'd be a runner. EVER.

  11. Jajajaja omg you are so funny, I have ADHD and your videos literally help me not so space out (so much). 😂😇🌈❤️

  12. I go exercise 5 times a week. 3 times running and 2 times gym. Because I do it in the morning. Nothing else works. Lol I got so many friends into doing Pilates or Yoga, only to end up ditching them because I didn't felt like it. 😀

  13. Huh… arent we all technically brains because even if you dont have adhd
    . You still have a brain.. altho thats called a heart if you dont have adhd…but then everyone has a heart so.. that makes everyone a heart.. but… wait what?

  14. For anyone who's down for adventurous or high intensity exercise, I've found rock climbing to be the perfect ADHD exercise solution! It's more like solving puzzles with your body than it is like going to the gym, and rock climbing gyms change their routes up all the time so there are always new puzzles to solve! Plus, all the routes are rated with a grade that tells you how hard it is, and even just going once or twice a week builds strength and skill fast enough that you can be going up a grade every few weeks! The grade system both offers pre-made goals AND constant, consistent feedback on your successes. And it's a surprisingly social sport, full of open minded people who are willing to work together on solving how to climb difficult problems and offer A LOT of encouragement to anyone who's working on a climbing problem they're finding challenging. It ticks so many boxes for how to keep ADHD brains engaged, it's almost like it was designed for us!

  15. High intensity workouts worked out for me. Action changes every 30 seconds. Yay. I did well for 8 weeks, every single day until I injured my ankle and I literally stopped for ages and didn't get back to it at all. Time to work on it again… I go to different place carrying my workout video to keep it interesting but felt frustrated if the spot isn't perfect to me. Argh.

  16. I have a question about raising children with ADHD. I was diagnosed as an adult so I understand how difficult it was for me as a child to keep my Room clean. And now they are struggling with the same thing. I tried to pass on my tips and tricks, but I would love to know what you have discovered that my help children be better Motivated to have a tidy room.

  17. I'm just tracking how much my suicidal thoughts have gone down since I tried exercising regularly. The happy hormones I get from exercising is my first aid for depression.

  18. as a late foreign vierwer 🙂 did you allready make or could you make a video with help on choosing an excersize that fitrs your brain?
    I have tried lots of stuff but nothing seems to stick

  19. Asthma actually also benefits from exercise! 🙂 Definitely should see a doctor but it is as good as an extra asthma med as long as you prepare well.

  20. Im on elvanse or vyvanse depending where youre from… its the only thing that helps me get motivated to exercise, ive heard you cant exercise on them though, is this true? 🤷‍♂️

  21. Hi Jessica. It is Saturday, 2:00 am, and I can't stop watching your videos. Why? It's been 4 months I was diagnosed as having ADHD. I am just amazed about how you have been helping people all over the world with this channel on YouTube. I am a Biomedical Scientist and Professor at a college and I am really interested in helping you and anyone who has or relates with other ADHD brains. I tried to find out a way to contact you but on the website says that emails should only be used for business proposes. Is there a way I could get in touch and help you somehow? Oh, my name is Wagner, by the way.

  22. I feel so ashamed.. my parents had my diagnosed in the early 90's for ADHD when I was a child.. my parents gave me meds but they didn't like how I was on the meds.. so they just swept under the rug.. it wasn't until 2001 when my teacher noticed I had ADHD and by that time I was ready to graduate from high school which I had a lot of trouble in studying hanging out with friends then trying to feel normal around them… I guess what I am trying to say is thank you for these videos they are a life saver for my son and I..

  23. Two Decembers at 2:23 accurately represent ADHD feeling of time 😁

    Also inattentiveness of both the creator and the viewer, whos mind wandered off to notice random details 🙂

  24. This helps explain why I always felt more on top of things when I was doing kendo three times a week. Looks like I gotta back to the doooooooojoooooooooo.


    Well, back to the YMCA in any case.

  25. These videos are so awesome. I actually find myself laughing out loud at the jokes, something I rarely do. Great job! Please keep up the good work! Knowing I'm not alone, and learning different ways to cope with my ADHD has literally changed my life. Thank you!

  26. this explanes why to get regular excersise i do….. hikeing, bikeingm, swimmeing, martial arts, general waight lifting, yoga and what ever dumb 10 min workout rutine video looks good that day. i'm not unorganiced and terible at comitting. i am giveing my under stimulated brain options and variations

  27. I couple years ago I discovered the Krav Maga gym near me. In the beginning I did it to get better in shape and feel like a badass but now I do it more for my mental health. Heavy bag is my fave. Sparring is fun. Being forced to keep up with peers fuels my motivation.

  28. I love exercise and i have adhd like I would exercise when I can (if I'm sick I wont I dont want a nose bleed when I'm middle of exercise) my fav exercise is push ups and rock climbing

  29. Intense exercises help. Heavy squats and deadlifts. Also stuff like interval training/crossfit where the exercise keeps training.

  30. So, I know I am 2 years late.
    I started parcours 2 months ago, organized by my university. And It's really fun, I have a weekly exercise, most of the time it's even the highlight of the week.

    But I found out a problem with it. I get so excited about parcours, that I stop catching the sings of exhaustion my body sends me. And after the 90 minutes of parcours, I am completely done and have no energy for anything. Sometimes it's so bad that I can barely move the next day, not because I have a muscle ache but because I just don't have any energy.

    And obviously, that is bad bc I can't just waste a day doing nothing, when I should be at university, and probably also not healthy. So, any idea, how to manage this, how to do sports without overexhausting?

    Or, to break it down into 3 Steps:

    1. How can I catch the sings of exhaustion before my body literally tells to lay down bc I literally need a break to just breath?
    2. Any tips on how to manage to get myself to stop when I just wanna do more fun jumping.
    3. When I managed to get myself to stop and sit at the side for a few minutes, I just want to get in again and continue bc it's so exciting. Which is kind of the biggest problem, bc even when I manage to stop, 3 minutes later I can't stop myself from starting again.

    Also, just wanted to say, I really love your videos, they help. A lot.

  31. I loved working out, running mostly, because I get about an hour of alone time to listen to music and let my mind wonder like a rocketman. Plus happy drug dump to my brain from it.

  32. I like to walk, hike, bike, swim, aerobics. I also have a job that requires me to move a lot. I also do not have a car.
    One thing that has helped me to move my body is by NOT calling it exercise and NOT putting pressure on myself to be like everyone else whoadds this thing called "exercise" and "working out" to their life.

  33. What I do well I put songs on the TV and I end just walking or running around my living room while just thinking of weird things 😛 BUT the downside is my parents say i shake the house when I do this oof. (I am 9 years old)
    I don’t have a schedule at all i do it when I feel like it. When I don’t I just don’t. But I don’t have the innatentive type. That’s mainly why

  34. I watched until the middle of the video then paused and now I stopped procrastinating about my daily half-hour fast-paced walk outside entirely. THANK YOU! 🙂

  35. I’ve actually been studying this for a good, while and putting it into practice, and it works. I go to the gym, and I lift and and stretch. It’s fun and sometimes when I play games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I like to stand and move my legs, and if I lose a match, or win two, I do exercises that don’t require implements.

  36. Do some MMA training. It helps a lot. You get a full body workout and cardio from doing it. MMA is also as much of a skill as it is an exercise so there's plenty of challenge there. Also there is usually a lot of people to spar with at any given gym, and each person fights in a totally different way, so you have a lot of novelty. The sport also teaches you how to defend yourself which is a huge confidence booster. Also a lot of places have some sort of belt system or some form of hierarchy, so there's the fun and confidence boost of constant progression. You also make a lot of friends. I highly recommend it for anyone with ADHD. Personally, I would start with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, because it's fun, relatively safe, and you get to spar (roll) on day one.

  37. I I am struggling with trying to do all the task in my job I seem to do really good at one thing but then somehow one small thing gets left out in the formatting. How do I stop the small leaks from happening in my brain and keeping everything a steady flow?

  38. Hi, this is my first time posting here. Im clear on how fundamental this disorder is to all of my life. I need some external support for getting to bed on time….
    Is there a way to ask/get an accountability partner in this community?….or is it better to look for a non adhd partner….because you know…..

  39. Hi, on exercise, is it better to exercise in the morning or evening. If i do it in the morning I have a better shot at getting it done…but I was thinking whether exercising in the evening, when my meds have worn off, might give me the energy and chemicals to go to sleep.

  40. Hey SUPER BRAIN!

  41. Back when DDR was popular, I used it to (unknowingly) self medicate and stopped taking my prescription. To this day, I still play dance games.

  42. Is it possible the other way around?
    I love sport. Every since I was a kid I've been doing sports competitively. Now I swim 19 to 23 hours a week and sleep mostly well. But is it possible to let other types of important activities like homework fall aside? I tend to leave homework out of the equation even when I know it's important and I love my degree.

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