Many of you may have heard at our lectures or patient visits that we (the FastBraiin team) recommend ADHD sports for ADHD children and adults. Benefits from sports include an improved focus, better peer relationships, and greater self-confidence. However, not all sports are equal in providing these benefits. Some sports are clearly better than others in this regard. This makes choosing the right sport for a FastBraiiner very important. As a parent, you may be wondering which sports are best for your child. If so, then read on and wonder no more.
The best ADHD sports are cardio sports
First and foremost, what we're looking for are cardio-intensive sports. With that in mind, bowling, darts and tiddlywinks don't make the list of FastBraiin-Friendly sports.
The cardio provided by appropriate sports is proven to have a positive effect on the ability of humans (not just our FastBraiin friends) to focus. In fact, this improvement in focus even extends for a significant period of time after finishing the exercise. In addition to this, cardio helps patients get better, more restful sleep. This is possibly owing to the release of endorphins post-exercise. It's well known that poor sleep exacerbates inattention in our patients.
With all this said, I tend to recommend that once an ADHD sports routine is established, we should try to avoid using it as behavioral leverage.
Many parents at this point tell me that their children are outside all the time and that they don't need more exercise. I love the idea of children being outside and engaging in active play. That said, what we're looking for is sustained cardio, not just the fits and starts of a game of tag. Even intermittent pedaling of a bicycle isn't quite what we need.
That being said, some exercise is better for the ADHD individual than no exercise.
The best ADHD sports are about more than exercise
Second, remember that we're talking about sports for children with ADHD, not just exercise. There is a significant difference in the potential benefits between the two.
Exercise for its own sake tends to be boring.
FastBraiiners don't do boring. If you throw a ball or goal into the mix then you get something much more engaging. All day long FastBraiiners are told to sit still and be quiet while their minds are racing from one thing to another. Often their teachers reprimand them for behaviors that are natural to them. In sports, everything changes. They are told to play as hard as they can, to run fast and put the pedal to the metal. This is their comfort zone (though they may not know it initially). This is an opportunity for FastBraiiners to shine, to establish peer relationships (team sports) and gather self-esteem. And no matter how much you love them, you can't give them self-esteem. They have to go out and get it for themselves.
The best ADHD sports have constant motion
Third, it's important to choose sports that have constant motion. For this reason, I don't tend to recommend baseball or softball for my patients. These sports, while great in and of themselves, are not Chaos sports, that is, sports in which there is constant motion and therefore a need for constant adaptation (e.g. soccer, basketball, hockey, lacrosse).
This is what FastBraiiners are great at: adaptation, improvisation. Most of baseball, on the other hand, is... well... waiting. They wait in the field for something to happen... and then when they get back to the dugout they.... wait for their turn at bat.
If you have a FastBraiiner in the household (or are one yourself) you know that FastBraiiners don't do waiting naturally. Their top skill set rarely includes "waiting." Baseball practice and drills, if vigorous, may be something entirely different, but we've all seen a right fielder wearing his mitt on his head and spinning in circles to help stave off boredom. As with all generalities there are significant exceptions to this.
Should I consider contact sports for ADHD individuals?
Contact sports can also be great for FastBraiiners, but be careful not to make contact sports their only sports. Remember there are no 60 year old NFL or NHL players. Contact sports do indeed have a shelf life. Should you and your FastBraiiner choose a contact sport, have another non-contact sport as a backup so they can have a Forever Sport. As far as Forever Sports go, I recommend considering:
- martial arts (especially this last sport, but that's an entirely different blog)
ADHD Sports: Give your child a gift
One of the best non-medical modalities of treatment for ADHD is sports. This is not just for improving focus, but for the self-esteem and peer relationships. FastBraiiners frequently develop these from participating in ADHD sports. Helping your ADHD individual find and play the right ADHD sport requires a commitment of time and energy. Yes, this is on both the part of the FastBraiiner and their parents. But it is a commitment that may pay huge dividends in lifelong self-esteem.
Remember that while you can't GIVE your child self-esteem, choosing the right sport can open an opportunity for them to earn some. And that may be one of the greatest gifts you can ever give them.