Master of Arts
Acute exercise interventions can improve executive functioning among children and youth with ADHD, however not all individuals experience the same benefit. We focused on three lifestyle factors (medication use, physical fitness, and physical activity behaviours) and their impact on the relationship between acute exercise and executive functioning. Participants completed a battery of executive functioning measures, followed by a 10-minute bout of moderate-intensity stationary biking (experimental condition), or silent reading (control condition). The same battery of assessments was re-administered immediately after the intervention and after a 10-minute delay. Overall, regardless of medication status, physical fitness level, or physical activity behaviours, an acute bout of exercise had similar effects on executive functioning outcomes. However, the pattern of data suggests that physical fitness level may influence the relationship between exercise and executive functioning. However, further research with a larger sample size is needed to unravel this issue.
Summary for Lay Audience
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder in children and youth. Individuals with ADHD typically experience executive functioning deficits that negatively impact their working memory (the ability to hold on to and manipulate information), inhibitory control (the ability to filter out distracting information), and task-switching (the ability to switch from one task to another). Pharmacological interventions (i.e., medication) are the primary method for alleviating ADHD symptomology. Although beneficial, stimulant medications can elicit undesirable side effects and often fail to address academic challenges common to children with ADHD. Exercise interventions have been identified as a potential supplemental treatment for children and youth to help ameliorate ADHD symptomology. Research in this area has mainly focused on the impact of long-term exercise interventions (i.e., weeks or months long) or longer exercise bouts (30 minutes to an hour). There has been less work dedicated to understanding how a short bout (10 minutes) of acute (i.e., a single session) exercise may impact executive functioning in children and youth with ADHD. Further, there has been little to no research investigating how individual differences in lifestyle factors may impact a child’s reactivity to acute exercise interventions. The current study focused on the role of three individual difference factors (medication status, physical fitness level, physical activity behaviours), and how they impact the relationship between acute exercise and executive functioning. Participants diagnosed with ADHD between the ages of 10-14 engaged in two sessions, an exercise session and a control session. During the exercise condition, participants completed a 10-minute bout of moderate-intensity stationary biking in addition to a pre-post battery of executive functioning assessments. The control condition consisted of 10-minutes of silent reading. Following a 10-minute bout of exercise, we found that regardless of medication status, physical fitness level, or physical activity behaviours, all individuals performed similarly well on each measure of executive functioning. Despite similar performance across groups, the pattern of data suggests that physical fitness level may impact the relationship between acute exercise and executive functioning among children and youth with ADHD. However, further research with a greater sample size is needed to fully unravel this issue.
Skinner, Jasmyn, "Individual Differences in Lifestyle Factors and the Effects of Acute Exercise on Executive Functioning in Children and Youth with ADHD" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7641.