By Jeremy Kaplan, Guest Blogger
As a young adult with ADHD, I have been on and off medication for my ADHD symptoms throughout my childhood. Now I have started to figure out how I can best manage my symptoms with a combination of medication, regular exercise, and good eating habits. I am currently a college sophomore studying exercise science and personal training certification, so the increased exercise is a program requirement, so to speak. Soon after I started to boost my exercise regimen, I noticed I was performing better in class and sleeping better, too.
Creating a schedule around my workouts has the added benefit of increased time management and a more strict daily routine. I use my workout times as anchors in my day. I try to keep my workouts scheduled for the same time every day, usually early morning so I can then schedule something like my homework or class immediately afterward. This helps me procrastinate less. The rise in adrenaline directly after workouts helps me pay attention and be more involved in the learning process during class. Science backs this up. Dr. John Rathey states, “Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention,” I can see this first hand.
Having a strict exercise program has played an integral part in developing better time management, increasing my attention span, and retention of more information while studying, however, exercise deserves only part of the credit. Additional credit belongs to changing my diet for the better. I’ve cut out processed foods, all added sugars, starchy carbohydrates, and anything with caffeine (excluding green tea). Having a strict diet goes hand-in-hand with a strict exercise routine, which both seem to be helping me increase my attention and memory. According to an article in ADDitude, “Foods rich in protein — lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products — can have beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms.” I start my day with a protein-rich meal, usually a protein shake with fruit, yogurt, spinach, and egg, or an egg breakfast of some sort. Brain-awakening neurotransmitters need to be fed with protein, so it is vitally important to have a protein-rich breakfast.
As a future personal trainer, I would whole-heartedly suggest to my clients that have ADHD symptoms to include exercise as part of their ADHD management program. Not only are the benefits body healthy, but they are brain healthy too.