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7 Exercise Tips for ADHD

Reading time | 4 mins

We know exercise is healthy for longevity and long-term physical health. Regularly, new research is done on other physical and psychological benefits of regular exercise.

While I’m a huge advocate for a healthy lifestyle, my ADHD can make it difficult for me to focus on the same exercise routine over and over again. Certain fitness classes can be similarly challenging. Some last more than 90 minutes and tend to get a bit mundane.

That said, there are still plenty of ways to stay (or get) active without getting bored with the same routine. Here are some ADHD-friendly exercises I’ve found that are dynamic, constantly changing, and super engaging.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT workouts are my favorite types of exercise. They are beneficial for weight loss and heart health. I find that HIIT workouts are especially ADHD-friendly because of the way they work — short, intense bursts of exercise.

They’re also often different every time. So, rather than doing the same moves over and over again, HIIT exercises are constantly changing and don’t last as long as the average cardio class.

Martial Arts

I love practicing martial arts because of the amount of active participation that’s required.

As someone with ADHD, I thrive in environments that keep me on my toes. I find that a lot of fitness classes are somewhat passive and require you to do exactly what the instructor says.

While there are passive elements to martial arts classes, once in practice, my brain is as active as my body. It’s a type of exercise that keeps me constantly engaged.

Dance fitness classes

Have you ever wanted to learn how to dance and get an incredible exercise while doing so? Exercise classes that are dance-based are some of the most fun and engaging workouts you can get.

If you’re a musical person like me, working out to the beat of your favorite genre can be highly motivating. I also love these classes because of how ADHD-friendly they are.

Some classes require you to learn some intense choreography. So, not only do I feel they can be highly stimulating and engaging physically, but I also feel like my brain is getting a workout as well.

If your ADHD makes it REALLY hard to focus in fitness classes, you can take this a step further and simply enroll in a high-energy dance class. Make that your exercise. When I used to do hip- hop workshops, they were by far the most difficult and the most fun workouts!

Short yoga sessions

I love yoga as a concept, but having ADHD can make focusing in 60- to 90-minute yoga classes hard. The good news is that you don’t have to commit to a long class to enjoy yoga.

One of my favorite things to do in the morning is to find a short, guided yoga video on YouTube to start my day. A search using the keywords “10-minute yoga” will yield almost 20,000,000 videos on Google.

Try finding videos that you like. My ADHD is much more of the hyperactive type, so I enjoy repetitive but active yoga classes. If you’re more of the inattentive type, try finding routines that change things up frequently.

Another ADHD-friendly benefit of a short yoga session (or short workout in general) is the motivation that comes with the act of doing something.

Doing something for a short period of time can make it less intimidating. The act of doing it can make you want to do it more. It’s kind of like Newton’s first law of motion, but for human motivation: A human in motion tends to stay in motion!

Weight training

As someone who struggles with long routines, I thrive much more in weight-training exercises than old-school cardio because of how much more engaging the exercise tends to be.

This is of course not to discount the benefits of cardio or to say that you can skip cardio altogether. The larger picture here is that you can change up a weekly routine to keep it interesting.

Include music or podcasts

I love multitasking. I used to be terrible at it. I’ve since gotten better at being able to pull on the reins of my easily distracted brain.

Even with ADHD, I’ve gotten surprisingly good at being able to do two things at once. It’s to the point where my workouts are much more motivating when I’m listening to an audiobook or music.

While I recognize that podcasts or audiobooks can be distracting for some people, see if there’s a type of ambient sound or music that helps keep you motivated.

The takeaway: Do something different every day

Most importantly, mix things up. I struggled to get motivated to exercise for years because I couldn’t stand how boring my fitness routines became over time. The minute I realized I didn’t have to do the same exercises every single day, my love for working out skyrocketed.

My failed workout routine used to look like this:

  • Sunday: Cardio
  • Monday: Weight training
  • Tuesday: Cardio
  • Wednesday: Weight training
  • Thursday: Cardio
  • Friday: Cardio
  • Sunday: Weight training

Now it looks like this:

  • Sunday: Hip-hop dance lesson
  • Monday: Strength training (back and biceps)
  • Tuesday: High-intensity interval training
  • Wednesday: Hatha yoga
  • Thursday: Strength training (chest and triceps)
  • Friday: Broadway choreography class
  • Saturday: Bikram yoga

Find a routine that works best for your delightfully dynamic ADHD brain and have fun with it!

For more information on how to manage ADHD, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

ADHD-US-NP-00060 JUNE 2019

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