Children with Behavioral Disorders Benefit from Exercise in More Ways Than One

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Children with Behavioral Disorders Benefit from Exercise in More Ways Than One

While we can all benefit from working out regularly, consistent exercise is even more beneficial for children with complex behavioral health disorders (BHD), a category that includes such as Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A new study suggests that regular exercise during the day could help kids with BHD perform better in school.

In the study, children who performed aerobic exercises during the week were 32 to 51 percent less likely to act out in class. The positive effects more noticeable on days where the children participated in exercise, but also carried over to the following day.

Unfortunately, researchers state there is growing evidence that children with BHD are less likely to participate in physical activity compared to their peers without behavioral disorders. The playground can be an unwelcoming environment for children with BHD, as anxiety and exclusion from sports often leaves them with less desire to engage in physical activity, leading to even more health problems.

The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, stressed the importance of finding exercise routines that encourage engagement by children with BHD. For the study, researchers created a 7-week aerobic cybercycling PE curriculum, allowing for children participants to use the bikes twice a week for 30 to 40 minutes at a time.

The control group continued a standard non-aerobic PE course. Researchers found that unlike the standard PE class, the cybercyling class successfully engaged children with BHD while providing high-quality exercise.

Lead researcher April Bowling hopes to start testing and implementing this exercise program in special education classes at public schools. While acknowledging that the exercise programs come with a cost, Bowling said that “if we really want our kids to do well, they need more movement during the school day, not less.”

Photo: SylwiaAptacy, CC-BY

Jane Snyder is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer and photojournalist based out of Athens, Georgia.

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