Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. This systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to assess the impact of physical activity (PA) interventions on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

2. PA may improve ADHD symptoms, particularly those related to inattention.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may impact cognitive and behavioral function in those affected. The most common treatments used are therapeutics and therapy. Emerging literature supports a link between physical activity (PA) and reduction of ADHD symptoms as well as associated functional limitations. However, the degree of symptom improvement associated with PA interventions has not been fully elucidated.

In the present systematic review and meta-analysis, studies were included which evaluated the efficacy of PA interventions on improving ADHD symptom scores. Studies were excluded which did not report ADHD using scale symptom scores. Outcomes included improvements in all ADHD symptoms as well as specific symptoms including hyperactivity, impulsivity, emotional problems, inattention, and behavioral problems.

A total of 23 studies (9 before-after studies and 14 two-group control studies) were included in the meta-analysis with a pooled 535 participants. In studies comparing PA to a control group, significant improvement was only seen in inattention-related symptoms. Conversely, in studies which looked at changes in symptoms in one group before and after PA, significant decreases in all ADHD-related symptoms were detected. This study was limited as a result of the heterogeneity in symptom scales used, inclusion of studies with both child and adult participants, and large effect size in a few studies used in the pooled analysis. Nonetheless, this study suggests that PA may reduce symptom burden in individuals with ADHD.

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