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Will Exercise Help Adults with ADHD?

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Up to 6 percent of adults may have undiagnosed ADHD. Undiagnosed adult ADHD is common, but the symptoms of adult ADHD still make life challenging. If you have been diagnosed with adult ADHD, or suspect you might have it, read on to see how natural ADHD treatments can help you reduce the worse of your ADHD symptoms.


ADHD is a problem that affects thousands of children and adults in the United States. While the National Institute for Health estimates that about 60 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are able to control their symptoms without medication in adulthood, the remaining 40 percent of ADHD patients have symptoms in adulthood that interfere with everyday life and make work, relationships, and focusing harder.

The industry for dealing with adult ADHD symptoms is large, but studies are only just beginning to understand what alternative treatments for ADHD work in adulthood. A recent study has found that exercise may help improve motivation and energy in adults with ADHD.

Exercise has been noted in previous studies to benefit children with ADHD, but this new study is one of the first to examine the link between ADHD symptoms and exercise in adults. Read more about exercise for adult ADHD below.

Study Details

The study was published in 2016 in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. The study examined 32 men who had not been officially diagnosed with ADHD but who reported suffering from the symptoms of adult ADHD.

Previously, the men had reported that before difficult tasks, they experienced symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and confusion. After a 20-minute exercise session, however, the men reported feeling more focused and able to concentrate on mentally-taxing tasks.

"There is now evidence that young adult men with symptoms of ADHD who engage in a single bout of moderate-intensity exercise are likely to benefit psychologically," the study authors stated.

The study authors reported that since exercise changes neurotransmitters and has instant effects in the brain, it could help ease symptoms of adult ADHD. Exercising briefly before engaging in mental tasks could be one simple way to improve focus in adults with ADHD and works as a supplement for natural ADHD treatments and traditional medication for adult ADHD.

What is Adult ADHD?

While many people are familiar with childhood ADHD, far fewer people realize that ADHD can continue into adulthood.

According to Web MD, in addition to 40 percent of the children diagnosed with ADHD continuing to show symptoms throughout life, and additional 6 percent of adults who were not diagnosed as children suffer from the disorder.

Symptoms of adult ADHD can vary slightly from how symptoms manifest in children, and adult ADHD symptoms also vary between men and women. Most adults with ADHD suffer from low motivation, low energy, poor performance at work, excessive fidgeting, inattention, and impulsivity in the workplace.

Symptoms of Adult ADHD in Men


  • Needs to move constantly
  • Fidgets with clothing, skin, pens, etc.
  • Interrupts or dominates the conversation
  • Trouble holding onto thoughts and ideas
  • Impatient
  • Constantly starting new hobbies
  • Gets upset at other drivers on the road
  • Procrastinates to a dangerous level
  • Prioritizes unimportant things
  • Constantly seeks stimulation (cell phone, activities, physical movement, entertainment)
  • Moody
  • Had trouble focusing in school (even if not officially diagnosed with ADHD)
  • Hyperfocus
  • Is easily depressed
  • May move from job to job
  • Higher usage rate for alcohol, tobacco, drugs, etc.
  • Poor self-image
  • Trouble staying on task


Symptoms of Adult ADHD in Women


  • Feels overwhelmed by too many choices
  • Inability to block out sounds
  • Sudden outbursts when over-tasked
  • Labeled as "scatterbrained"
  • Has trouble keeping things clean and organized
  • Engages in activity extremes- either a flurry of activity that lasts several days or several days of complete lack of activity (possibly to the point of staying in bed all day)
  • Feels depressed and overwhelmed by life and responsibility
  • Trouble organizing and acting on ideas
  • Feels like an imposter
  • Feels judged for being flighty and disorganized
  • Interrupts or dominates conversation Has trouble focusing at work
  • Daydreams
  • Constant restlessness
  • Trouble remembering where things are
  • Feels anxious and stressed much of the time
  • Procrastinates to a dangerous level
  • Prioritizes unimportant things
  • Moody
  • Poor self-image
  • Trouble staying on task


In general, men who have ADHD tend to be aggressive, outspoken, and jittery, while women with ADHD tend to be scatterbrained, anxious, and moody.

Both men and women are likely to feel like they have trouble keeping up in life unless they have been surrounded by friends and family members who also have ADHD, in which case it may be harder to identify if they have ADHD, as ADHD behaviors will seem normal.

Natural Treatments for Adult ADHD

Since many adults are not officially diagnosed with ADHD, getting diagnosed and approved for medication can be a challenge. Many insurance companies do not cover the adult diagnosis of ADHD, which means that diagnosis alone could cost thousands of dollars and medication may also not be covered, or covered at just a fraction of the cost. This makes the traditional medication route a challenging option for adults.

Additionally, ADHD medication can have many side effects, including drowsiness, mood swings, insomnia, and weird tics. Many of these side effects can interfere with how a person is seen at work, and may even make it harder to work in a traditional work environment.

Instead of medication, many adults with ADHD have turned to natural treatments for adult ADHD. Natural treatments have been shown in multiple studies to reduce some of the symptoms of ADHD with little to no side effects. These alternative treatments for ADHD are ideal for adults who are undiagnosed or simply do not want the side effects of traditional ADHD medication.


A study from 2008 found that children who exercise for 20 minutes before engaging in mental tasks were better able to focus. This is similar evidence provided to the study listed above for adults with ADHD. According to these studies, it appears that individuals with ADHD are able to focus more if they spend some time engaging in an active task before settling down to focus on mental tasks. If you have a big project coming up at work, try exercising at lunch or before work to steady your mind and help you focus. As an added bonus, you'll be healthier, too.

Studies indicate that focused exercises, like yoga and tai chi, provide the biggest reduction in ADHD symptoms over time.

Vitamins and Supplements

Although there is no direct link between nutrition and ADHD symptoms, some symptoms of ADHD are lessened with the addition of vitamins and supplements. Studies show that individuals with ADHD tend to be low in the same nutrients, which may be caused by ADHD or be caused by trouble processing nutrients which may contribute to ADHD symptoms. Either way, you won't cure ADHD by taking extra vitamins, but you might just make your symptoms manageable enough to prevent the need for traditional medications. The following supplements have been shown to have benefit in controlling ADHD symptoms naturally:

Omega 3

Omega 3 fats are low in most American diets. Omega 3 helps not only control inflammation, but it can also reduce the symptoms of ADHD. multiple studies have found that supplementing with omega 3 is about 40 percent as effective as traditional ADHD medication for treating ADHD symptoms in adults and children.


Numerous studies report that children and adults with ADHD are often low in zinc. Zinc supplements (take with copper to prevent zinc overdosing) have been shown to help reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity in children and adults with ADHD. Iron Many adults with ADHD are also low in iron and may also exhibit symptoms of anemia. Low iron levels are often attributed to ADHD symptoms. Individuals with ADHD often have low ferritin levels, which is a protein used to store iron in the blood. Taking iron supplements can help prevent some minor symptoms of ADHD and improve focus and reduce hyperactive symptoms.


A lack of magnesium can interfere with sleep and cause restlessness and insomnia. Many adults with ADHD suffer from insomnia at night. Some studies have found that adding magnesium to the diet can help individuals with ADHD sleep better at night and have better wakefulness and focus during the day.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps modulate the neurotransmitter dopamine. Most traditional ADHD medication works by stimulating dopamine production, which steadies mental activity and helps reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Increasing the amount of vitamin C in your diet will encourage the natural production of dopamine in your brain, which can help reduce some ADHD side effects.


Protein is necessary to focus the mind. Low-protein diets can interfere with focus and make it harder for adults with ADHD to concentrate. Adults who do not eat a lot of protein (more common in women than men), may have a harder time concentrating and focusing. Add a source of protein to all meals to increase focus and concentration and fight ADHD symptoms.

Other Supplements for Adult ADHD 

Other Alternative Treatments for Adult ADHD

In addition to supplements and exercise, a few additional alternative therapies for ADHD can be effective for individuals with ADHD. Every treatment method will not work for every adult with ADHD, but if you suffer from ADHD and do not want to take medication, the following alternative treatment methods for ADHD are worth a shot.

Clean Your Diet

A diet filled with junk food and lacking in proper nutrition will be bad for anyone, but it is particularly bad for individuals with ADHD. Adults with ADHD are often low in certain nutrients, and a poor diet will only make the problem worse. Try to eat a healthy diet filled with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein. Avoid preservatives and processed foods.

Some evidence has also shown that certain food colorings and preservatives can affect some people with ADHD. Studies indicate that food dyes and preservatives increase ADHD symptoms in about 10 percent of individuals with ADHD. Try cutting out these foods and preservatives for a few weeks and see if you notice any improvement in symptoms:

  • Sodium benzoate FD&C
  • Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow)
  • D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow)
  • FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine)
  • FD&C Red No. 40 (allura red)
  • BHT
  • BHA

Some common allergens may also make ADHD symptoms worse, including:

  • Foods containing salicylates (tomatoes, prunes, plums, peaches, oranges, apples, berries, grapes, chilis)
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Chocolate


A study from 2003 found that when children with ADHD were given frequent massages, their behavior improved. The study participants who received 20-minute massages twice a week showed the biggest reduction in ADHD symptoms.

Natural ADHD Treatments Work for Adults, Too

If you have adult ADHD, or if you suspect you might without a formal diagnosis, it is likely that your symptoms are interfering with your quality of life. Studies indicate that adults with ADHD are more likely to have trouble with work, relationships, and substance abuse, which makes adult ADHD a dangerous condition. However, ADHD medications can have unwanted side effects which can further interfere with the quality of life.

Luckily, studies indicate that natural ADHD treatments can work for reducing the symptoms of adult ADHD. If you suspect you may have ADHD, try these alternative treatments for adult ADHD to prevent the worst of your symptoms. In just a few weeks, you should find it easier to concentrate and focus at work, in relationships, and throughout life.





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