Outdoor activity can help with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)

Outdoor activity can help with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)

By Catherine Walker

An increase in outdoor activity reduces the severity of a child’s symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD), according to a new study.

Earlier studies have also found that time spent in green outdoor settings is of benefit.

Over 400 children with diagnosed ADHD were studied by researchers.  They found that those who regularly play outdoors in a setting that has grass and trees have milder symptoms of ADHD than those who play indoors or in built outdoor environments.

The study found that the findings held true even when taking other factors into account such as socioeconomic status.

This study appears in the journal Applied Psychology : Health and Well-Being.

It is believed that this natural approach could provide a low-cost, side-effect-free way of managing a child’s symptoms according to the University of Illinois study authors, Andrea Faber Taylor, Ph.D., and Frances (Ming) Kuo Ph.D.

Previous research has already shown that brief exposure to green outdoor spaces can improve concentration and impulse control in children and adults without ADHD.

It was these findings that led Taylor and Kuo to examine whether children diagnosed with ADHD, which is characterised by lack of concentration and impulse control, may also benefit from ‘green play’.  Can the benefits be found in day-to-day places like the back garden or are special trips to places like the park of more advantage

‘Before the current study, we were confident that acute exposures to nature, sort of one-time doses, have short-term impacts on ADHD symptoms,’ Kuo said.  ‘This question is, if you’re getting chronic exposure, but it’s the same old stuff because it’s in your backyard or it’s the playground at your school, then does that help?’

In order to find the answer, the researchers examined parents’ descriptions of their child’s daily play settings and the overall severity of overall symptoms.  They also looked at the children’s age, sex, formal diagnosis (ADD or ADHD) and the total household income.

The findings were that there is an association between routine play in green, outdoor settings and milder ADHD symptoms.

‘On the whole the green settings were related to milder overall symptoms than either the ‘built outdoors’ or ‘indoors’ settings,’ said Taylor.

The particular outdoor setting appears to be important for children with a high degree of hyperactivity.  These children tended to have milder symptoms if they regularly played in a green and open environment such as a football pitch or expansive lawn, rather than a green space with lots of trees or an indoor or built outdoor setting.

No significant differences between boys and girls were found by the researchers.  This was also found to be the case for differing income groups in terms of the relationship between the greenness of the play settings and the overall symptom severity.

Given that previous studies showed a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to nature and improved concentration and impulse control ‘it is reasonably safe to guess that that’s true here as well,’ Kuo said.

Source: University of Illinois  

No votes yet