Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 655–667 | Cite as

A Randomized Trial Examining the Effects of Aerobic Physical Activity on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Young Children

  • Betsy HozaEmail author
  • Alan L. Smith
  • Erin K. Shoulberg
  • Kate S. Linnea
  • Travis E. Dorsch
  • Jordan A. Blazo
  • Caitlin M. Alerding
  • George P. McCabe


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 (M age = 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.


Physical activity ADHD Behavior Peer Mood Young children Aerobic 



This research was supported primarily by grant number R01MH082893 from the National Institute of Mental Health to Betsy Hoza and John T. Green. This research was supported in part by the United States Health and Human Services (USHHS), Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD), grant award 90DD0645 to the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion, University of Vermont. The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institute of Mental Health, the USHHS, or the ADD and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betsy Hoza
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan L. Smith
    • 2
  • Erin K. Shoulberg
    • 1
  • Kate S. Linnea
    • 1
  • Travis E. Dorsch
    • 3
    • 5
  • Jordan A. Blazo
    • 2
  • Caitlin M. Alerding
    • 3
  • George P. McCabe
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychological ScienceUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of KinesiologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health and KinesiologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  4. 4.Department of StatisticsPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  5. 5.Department of Family, Consumer, and Human Development & Department of Health, Physical Education, and RecreationUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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