Best Workouts for Women with ADHD
Though it’s common knowledge that regular exercise is good for us, affecting everything from our weight to our cholesterol to our mood, for individuals with ADHD, exercise is even more beneficial. Working out can act as supplemental treatment for women struggling with ADHD, increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine to engage the brain, reducing irritability and enhancing focus.1 Discover the eight best workouts for ADHD as well as exercise tips to help you find your ideal routine.
Why Exercise is So Important
Beyond the physical benefits of exercise, from improving cardiovascular function to toning muscles, exercise can also have positive effects on the brain, transforming physical exercises into mental exercises for ADHD. According to Amelia Russo-Neustadt, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at California State University, exercise can help people with ADHD refrain from startling and overreacting by balancing norepinephrine in the brain stem’s arousal center.2 She also says this can reduce irritability, a common ADHD trait. Other positive effects of exercise researchers have found include:
- Improvement in executive function, especially during aerobic exercise3
- Motivation to learn new skills, particularly during complex exercises that stimulate the fight-or-flight response
- Changes in the same neurochemicals and brain structures as in popular ADHD medications4
Exercise Tips for Women with ADHD
If the idea of laborious exercise intimidates you, you’ll be happy to know that moderate exercise is actually preferred for women with ADHD. Rodney Dishman, Ph.D. at the University of Georgia found that while rigorous exercise helped lessen hyperactivity in boys, specifically helping them stare straight ahead and follow specific tasks, moderate exercise was more effective for girls when it came to motor skills.5
Complexity also plays a role in how beneficial an exercise is to a person with ADHD. In one animal study, researchers found that compared to rats who ran on a treadmill, their peers who practiced complex motor skills in acrobatic exercises improved levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) more dramatically, which suggests growth in the cerebellum, a crucial point of overactivity in the ADHD brain.6
If you’re a woman with ADHD, consider the following tips before exploring specific exercises below:
- Exercise in the morning to set a positive, energized tone for the day.
- Don’t overdo it. Moderate exercise is more effective than rigorous exercise for women with ADHD.
- The more complex the exercise, the better, so feel free to skip monotonous exercises like running on a treadmill.
- Feel free to experiment. While experts may have differing opinions about the efficacy of one exercise over another, every person with ADHD has their own unique challenges and finding what regimen works for you will help you stick to your new routine. If none of the following exercises appeal to you, try doing something active that you do enjoy, such as dancing, rock climbing, roller skating, or even using a hula hoop.
What 8 Workouts are Best for ADHD?
From running and biking to yoga and surfing, there are a variety of exercises you can choose from to help manage your symptoms of ADHD. Here are eight of the top exercises we’ve found and what makes them impactful when it comes to the ADHD brain.
Creating new pathways in your brain and flooding it with chemicals that help you pay attention, running is a beneficial type of aerobic exercise that can be done outside, helping to keep the brain engaged with varied visual stimuli. You can up the novelty factor by finding new places to run all the time.
Swimming is another prime example of moderate aerobic exercise, which has been linked to improvement of executive function. One study even found that an eight-week vigorous swimming intervention helped to alleviate inattention and hyperactivity while improving mental health in an adult with ADHD.7 This was attributed to aerobic effects as well as the “repeatability of movements” associated with closed motor skills like swimming. Because it requires precise movements to be repeatedly practiced, a person with ADHD finds the process easier to learn and master.
Some die-hard cyclists have compared the effects of biking with the positive effects of stimulant medication (not the negative effects) and research backs them up since both have the tendency to boost dopamine and norepinephrine, improving attention, movement and coordination at once.8
Like other mindfulness techniques, yoga can help decrease some of the symptoms of ADHD by requiring yogis to slow down, pay attention to detailed movements and focus on breathing.9 Research also indicates that yoga increases dopamine and strengthens the prefrontal cortex, thus improving attention and focus.10 At the same time, yoga has been found to de-activate the sympathetic nervous system while activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This results in a sense of equilibrium between body and mind, and increased emotional self-regulation.11
5. Strength Training
Goal-oriented strength training exercises help motivate the ADHD brain to overcome specific obstacles and work toward more challenging reps, adding to mental resilience. This can help reduce anxiety, which is a common coexisting condition for people with ADHD.12
6. Power Walking
Like running, power walking is a beneficial aerobic exercise that can be done outdoors, but it has lower impact on your body, which can be preferable for those looking for a less vigorous workout.
Like other complex exercises, the technical movement in surfing activates the brain areas that control balance, sequencing and fine motor adjustments, which make your brain practice intense focus and concentration.
Feel the benefits of aerobic exercise while also getting out in nature with a hike. Some hikers with ADHD say that the exercise helps them plan ahead, get the strength training they crave, practice organizational skills and clear the mind with the same efficacy as meditation.13
Additional Tips to Help How Women Tackle ADHD Symptoms
In addition to working out to help manage symptoms of ADHD, be sure to schedule in down time as well. Practicing mindfulness and prioritizing sleep is crucial, and studies show that poor sleep can actually make symptoms of ADHD worse. Pair your workout with a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, and minimize sugar and alcohol intake, which have also been shown to exacerbate symptoms.
If you find it difficult to work physical activity into your day and lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle, you can try getting creative with your time. If you’re close enough, make the commute to work a workout by biking there. Get up earlier to schedule a morning workout session or squeeze one in during lunch. Take active breaks during the work day by scheduling in short walks, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or making a few quick laps around the building (or block). Some other ways to tips to help manage ADHD include:
- Consider seeing a therapist or counselor with whom you can strategize tools to help reduce your ADHD symptoms.
- Limit your sugar and caffeine intake, which can exacerbate symptoms.
- Consider cutting down your screen time, especially before bed, because it can wreck your sleep and make your symptoms worse.
- Set aside some time each day to practice mindfulness techniques like meditation, even if just for five minutes.
- Empower yourself with knowledge. Educate yourself and your loved ones on ADHD and don’t be afraid to ask them for support.
Taking medication is another helpful route in learning how to manage ADHD. Brillia for Adults is a non-prescription medication that helps reduce symptoms of ADHD like inattention, impulsivity, and restlessness without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Its active ingredient consists of antibodies to the S100B protein, a key regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes, including communication between neurons, enzyme activities, and calcium homeostasis. Without affecting any other systems in the body, Brillia gently and impactfully balances your neurotransmitters to reduce symptoms while promoting clarity and focus. And because of this specificity, Brillia does not cause any harmful interactions with other drugs. So if you are already taking medication for ADHD or anxiety, you can add Brillia to your regimen without worry. This can be useful if your current meds are causing secondary symptoms (like anxiety, a common side effect of prescription stimulants) or if you want to avoid increasing the dosage of your other medications.
Besides our clinically-proven active ingredient, another unique component about Brillia is our holistic approach. Brillia works best in combination with healthy lifestyle choices like proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness. Along with Brillia, these “5 Pillars” give you an action plan to manage your ADHD symptoms and thrive, with or without prescription medication. Find out more about how Brillia works and find more resources on managing ADHD at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.
We’ll share helpful tips, the latest studies and personal experiences.