The Exercise Prescription for ADHD

There is no magic bullet for treating ADHD but if you are a person with executive functioning weaknesses one of the best things you can do for yourself is to exercise. Exercise elevates dopamine and norepinephrine and keeps them up for a period of time so that it almost acts like a stimulant medication. But be careful, there are some side effects.

Possible side effects may include:

  • A positive attitude and increased ability to handle stress
  • Having increased strength and stamina
  • Getting a better nights sleep
  • Increased memory and motivation


When I was younger I had an all or nothing approach to exercise. As a child I studied ballet and rode my bike everywhere and then I stopped. Years later I started doing yoga for hours everyday and felt amazing but then I stopped. Several years later I started taking three or four dance classes a week. I did this for years and looked and felt great and then I stopped. I guess it proves that the law of inertia is true, that a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted on by an external force.

I have a tired old body. Most mornings I wake up with pain my knees, a sore back and arthritic hands. Only after I drink a cup of tea, eat some protein, wash down some Advil and supplements do I begin to feel reasonably better. Then I make sure my i-phone is charged, put on my gym clothes, fill my water bottle, and drag myself off to the gym. Every other day I let the part of me that knows that I need to exercise win the battle of what to do with this body and every other day I give myself a break. This is the strategy that works for me.

Regular exercise is beneficial to everyone but you may be forgetting to put it in your schedule and allocate time for it. Buying a gym membership doesn’t make you fit it’s going to the gym and working out that makes you healthy.
If you are not getting the exercise you need, ask yourself,”What is getting in my way?” and address each excuse. Start small, one day a week at first and then build up. Find a workout that you like and stick to it. See if you can find an exercise buddy. If you need extra motivation, try on some bathing suits! If you don’t like what you see, hurry to the gym.

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Kathy Sussell is an ADHD coach in Brooklyn, NY. She helps teens, college students and adults with ADHD with time management, planning and prioritizing, getting started with and finishing tasks, organizing paper and objects and improving social skills. She is the organizer of the ADHD Women’s Meetup Group that meets every month in downtown Brooklyn. For more information visit her website: or email Kathy at

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