Master of Arts
A short bout of physical activity has been shown to improve executive functioning in children. However, the implications for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been understudied. We examined the impact of a 10min bout of physical activity on executive functioning and psycho-emotional well-being in children with ADHD. Participants engaged in two lab-based sessions separated by 1-week: a physical activity session and a control session. The physical activity session included a 10min bout of moderate-intensity biking, with a pre-post battery of cognitive and psycho-emotional assessments. The control session consisted of 10mins of silent reading. We used functional imaging during the cognitive assessments to measure changes in prefrontal cortical activation. We found that 10mins of physical activity promoted greater inhibitory control, positive mood, and general self-efficacy compared to control. These findings suggest that a short bout of physical activity has the potential to improve specific aspects of ADHD symptomology.
Summary for Lay Audience
ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in children, affecting approximately 6% of Canadian school-aged children. ADHD is characterized by deficits in executive functioning, including sustained attention, inhibitory control, and working memory, ultimately interfering with academic success and every-day functioning. Several efficacious treatment methods exist to diminish these deficits, such as pharmacological treatments and behavioural management treatments, yet they all have significant shortcomings, such as exacerbating mood disturbances and/or being inaccessible to those of lower socioeconomic status. Physical activity has been identified as a potential supplementary intervention for ADHD to help ameliorate symptoms. The majority of research in this area has focused on the impact of chronic physical activity interventions (i.e., weeks- or months-long) as well as longer sessions (20 mins-hour) to ameliorate ADHD deficits. Little work, however, has been devoted to understanding how a short (10 min) acute physical activity bout (i.e., a single session) impacts the neurocognitive and psycho-emotional functioning of children with ADHD. This thesis aimed to address these gaps by 1) investigating the impact of a single physical activity bout on the executive functioning of children with ADHD; 2) investigating how a single physical activity bout impacts the attention-center of the brain (i.e., prefrontal cortex) and corresponding executive functions using neuroimaging; and 3) examining how a single session of physical activity impacts psycho-emotional functioning such as self-efficacy, mood, motivation and affect. Participants aged 10-14 with ADHD engaged in two lab-based sessions separated by 1-week: a physical activity session and a control session. The physical activity session included a 10min bout of moderate-intensity biking, with a pre-post battery of cognitive and psycho-emotional assessments. The control session consisted of 10mins of silent reading. We used functional neuroimaging during the cognitive assessments to measure changes in brain activation within the prefrontal cortex. We found that 10mins of physical activity promoted greater inhibitory control, positive mood, and self-efficacy compared to silent reading. This information could increase the accessibility of physical activity interventions to support children with ADHD, especially in terms of cost and time, as the extant long-term interventions tend to be lengthy and costly.
Bigelow, Hannah B., "Understanding the Effects of Physical Activity on Executive Functioning and Psycho-Emotional Well-Being in Children with ADHD" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7073.