A Randomized Trial Examining the Effects of Aerobic Physical Activity on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Young Children
The goal of this study was to compare the effects of before school physical activity (PA) and sedentary classroom-based (SC) interventions on the symptoms, behavior, moodiness, and peer functioning of young children (Mage = 6.83) at risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD-risk; n = 94) and typically developing children (TD; n = 108). Children were randomly assigned to either PA or SC and participated in the assigned intervention 31 min per day, each school day, over the course of 12 weeks. Parent and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity), oppositional behavior, moodiness, behavior toward peers, and reputation with peers, were used as dependent variables. Primary analyses indicate that the PA intervention was more effective than the SC intervention at reducing inattention and moodiness in the home context. Less conservative follow-up analyses within ADHD status and intervention groups suggest that a PA intervention may reduce impairment associated with ADHD-risk in both home and school domains; interpretive caution is warranted, however, given the liberal approach to these analyses. Unexpectedly, these findings also indicate the potential utility of a before school SC intervention as a tool for managing ADHD symptoms. Inclusion of a no treatment control group in future studies will enable further understanding of PA as an alternative management strategy for ADHD symptoms.