How to Enjoy Exercise When You Are Living with ADHD

Sturti/E+/Getty. Getty Images

Some people with ADHD love to exercise!  These people realized (often when they were quite young) that exercise makes them feel better. They enjoy feeling energetic but not hyper; having a sharp, clear mind instead of brain fog, and feeling happy rather than stressed or anxious. Because of this, they make exercise an integral part of their life. In fact, these ADHD exercise lovers don’t even call it exercise.

 Instead, they might say, “I am taking the dog for a work"or “I am going skiing.” The activity feels like play and something they look forward to doing.

Another group of people with ADHD, don’t enjoy exercise. They know it's something they should do, and even have a gym membership. However, they don’t go very often. Exercise is another thing on their to-do list and it feels like work.

Exercise is good for long-term health, and it's very helpful in treating and managing ADHD. John Ratey says in his book, Spark, that exercise increases dopamine and norepinephrine which reduces ADHD symptoms, like distractibility and impulsivity.

How can you go from avoiding exercise to loving it? Here are 6 strategies.

1.     Reframe how you think about exercise

If you are living with ADHD, your life is probably full of things that you have to make yourself do: Housework, paper work, taxes etc., and exercise is just another thing on that list.

It is helpful to reframe how you think of exercise and shift it from being a chore into something fun. Stop using the word exercise and replace it with anactivity you are going to do; for example: biking or hiking. This simple switch makes a big difference.

2.     What motivates you?

Find an exercise that you are motivated to do; something you look forward to and time whizzes by while you are doing it.

ADHD and motivation problems go hand in hand. It is hard for someone with ADHD to motivate oneself to take action if there is no interest. Be open to trying a lot of different activities until you find one you love. Swimming, tennis, classes at the gym, running, and yoga are just a few options.

3.     Have a goal

Having a goal is a great way to create motivation to exercise. You could sign up for a charity bike ride, 10k race, or choose a type of exercise that has goals built into them, such as martial arts. Martial arts students have a series of goals, in the form of belts (from white to black) to work towards and achieve.

4.     Exercise with people

Exercising with friends, joining a club or class is helpful when you have ADHD. You know people are expecting you at a certain time and that holds you accountable to attend. Exercising with people also adds a social element, which means it feels more like fun than work.  Another way to exercise with a person is to hire a personal trainer or do an instructor-led exercise; for example: yoga.


5.     Keep Track

Keeping track of your exercise stats can be very motivating. Seeing your personal data and the improvements and progress you make, acts as encouragement to continue.  There are many ways to track yourself. A pedometer, heart rate monitor, or apps that tracks your mileage and speed for bike rides and runs are a few examples.

Continue Reading