Can Just 5 Minutes of Exercise a Day Help With Your ADHD?

Harold Robert Meyer /The ADD Resource Center  01/06/2024

While there are several treatment options available, recent research suggests that exercise can play a significant role in managing ADHD symptoms.

The role of exercise in managing ADHD

Exercise has long been recognized for its numerous physical and mental health benefits. Regular physical activity has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, boost mood, and reduce stress and anxiety. In the context of ADHD, exercise can be particularly beneficial. It helps to release endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the brain that improve mood and reduce feelings of stress and depression.

Furthermore, exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, leading to better cognitive function and improved executive functioning skills. Executive functions, which include abilities such as planning, organizing, and prioritizing, are often impaired in individuals with ADHD. By engaging in regular exercise, individuals with ADHD can enhance their executive functioning skills, ultimately leading to improved focus and attention.

The science behind exercise and ADHD symptom reduction

Numerous studies have explored the relationship between exercise and ADHD symptom reduction. One study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that 20 minutes of exercise before completing a cognitive task significantly improved attention and impulse control in children with ADHD. Another study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders reported that regular physical activity was associated with reduced symptoms of ADHD in both children and adults.

The underlying mechanisms behind the positive effects of exercise on ADHD symptoms are still being explored. However, exercise is believed to increase neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a crucial role in regulating attention and impulse control. Exercise also promotes the growth of new neurons in the brain, particularly in areas responsible for executive functioning.

The benefits of regular exercise for ADHD

In addition to the positive effects on cognitive function, regular exercise has several other benefits for individuals with ADHD. Firstly, exercise helps to regulate sleep patterns, which can be disrupted in individuals with ADHD. By improving sleep quality, exercise improves overall well-being and reduces symptoms such as irritability and inattention.

Secondly, exercise provides an outlet for excess energy and helps to reduce hyperactivity. Engaging in physical activity allows individuals with ADHD to channel their energy constructively, leading to improved self-control and decreased impulsivity. Additionally, exercise has increased self-esteem and confidence, as individuals experience a sense of accomplishment and improved physical fitness.

Incorporating 5 minutes of exercise into your daily routine

While the benefits of exercise for ADHD are clear, finding the time and motivation to engage in regular physical activity can be challenging, especially for individuals with busy schedules. However, even just 5 minutes of exercise a day can make a significant difference in managing ADHD symptoms. The key is finding enjoyable activities that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine.

One way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine is by taking short breaks throughout the day. Set a timer for 5 minutes and engage in a physical activity of your choice, such as jumping jacks, stretching, or brisk walking. These short bursts of exercise can help to boost your energy levels, improve focus, and reduce feelings of restlessness.

Another option is to incorporate exercise into your regular activities. For example, instead of taking the elevator, opt for the stairs. Park your car farther from your destination for a few extra minutes of walking. On your bus or subway route, get off one stop before your actual stop. These small changes can add up over time and contribute to your overall physical fitness and well-being.

Simple exercises that can be done in 5 minutes

Here are some simple exercises that can be done in just 5 minutes, providing a quick and effective way to manage ADHD symptoms:

  1. Jumping Jacks: Stand with your feet together and arms by your sides. Jump, spreading your feet wider than hip-width apart, and raise your arms above your head. Jump back to the starting position and repeat for 1 minute.
  2. High Knees: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one knee towards your chest while simultaneously raising the opposite arm. Alternate between knees and arms for 1 minute, maintaining a quick pace.
  3. Plank: Start in a push-up position, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a straight line. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute, engaging your core muscles.
  4. Squats: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lower your body into a seated position, keeping your weight in your heels and your chest lifted. Rise back up to the starting position and repeat for 1 minute.

Remember to listen to your body and choose exercises appropriate for your fitness level. Consult a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise routine if you have any health concerns or limitations.

Professional opinions on the effectiveness of short bursts of exercise for ADHD

Experts in the field of ADHD have weighed in on the effectiveness of short bursts of exercise for managing ADHD symptoms. Dr. John Ratey, a renowned psychiatrist and author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” (, emphasizes the importance of exercise for individuals with ADHD. He states exercise is like medication for ADHD. It improves focus, attention, and impulsivity.”

Dr. Ratey further explains that short bursts of exercise can be just as effective as longer periods of physical activity. He recommends incorporating exercise into daily routines, stating that “small bouts of activity throughout the day can be as effective as one continuous session.”

Similarly, Dr. Edward Hallowell, a leading expert on ADHD, advocates for regular exercise as a key component of ADHD management. He believes exercise helps regulate the brain’s dopamine and norepinephrine levels, leading to improved attention and focus. (

The best time to exercise

Morning workouts can help enhance mood and promote a sense of well-being throughout the day. It is best not to exercise before retiring. Nevertheless, the best time to exercise is generally considered to be whenever you can do so consistently.

Conclusion: The importance of finding what works best for you

In conclusion, exercise is a powerful tool for managing ADHD symptoms. Even just 5 minutes of exercise a day can significantly improve focus, reduce impulsivity, and regulate mood. By incorporating short bursts of physical activity into your daily routine, you can experience the benefits of exercise without committing to lengthy workout sessions.

However, it is essential to remember that everyone’s experience with ADHD is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Finding an exercise routine that suits your needs and preferences is crucial. Experiment with different activities and durations to discover what helps you manage your ADHD symptoms most effectively.

Take control of your ADHD symptoms by embracing the power of exercise. Start with just 5 minutes a day, and witness the positive impact it can have on your overall well-being and quality of life.

Harold Robert Meyer /The ADD Resource Center  01/06/2024

For more than 30 years, Harold and the ADD Resource Center have provided compassionate guidance, ADHD and Life coaching, and quality information to children, individuals, couples, and healthcare providers, demystifying and destigmatizing ADHD.

This article is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations. Exercise should only be done after consulting with your healthcare provider.


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