7 Benefits of Swimming for ADHD
February 15, 2022
3 min read
Most of us have heard of Michael Phelps, the celebrated Olympian who has created history by bagging 28 career medals, 23 of them gold. Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD in the sixth grade. But while he couldn't sit through class without fidgeting, he could swim for up to three hours at the pool after school.
Millions of children are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, and it impacts many adults as well. Living with ADHD can be challenging for both children and their parents and it's important to have the right mechanisms to manage the symptoms of ADHD. Swimming can be an extremely useful activity to help alleviate symptoms of ADHD. Here's how-
ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity and excess energy, and kids need an outlet to release this excess energy. Swimming is an intense, full body workout, and burns around 500 calories in just an hour, making it a great way to burn off surplus energy.
Inattentive and restless behavior is a common symptom of ADHD. Kids with ADHD often have lower neurotransmitter levels, which are healthy chemicals released by the brain during vigorous exercise. One such neurotransmitter is dopamine, which on being released, makes us feel happier, focused and motivated. In fact, medications used to treat ADHD mostly work by increasing the release of dopamine in the brain. Hence, swimming can prove to be a natural, side-effect free way for kids with ADHD to increase their attention spans.
Those with ADHD find it almost impossible to focus on one task for a long period of time. Swimming is a great way to improve focus and concentration by boosting blood flow to the brain. Moreover, having a highly structured routine imbibes a sense of discipline and provides a child a point of focus, and kids with ADHD function better when they have a clear point of focus. A swimmer’s head is often underwater and this helps to eliminate surrounding distractions for people with ADHD and thus improve concentration.
Children with ADHD often feel isolated from their peers, who seem to ease through tasks that kids with ADHD might otherwise find difficult to perform. Teachers, relatives and peers may not always understand the particular needs of kids with ADHD and this can affect self esteem and confidence as they may start doubting themselves. Swimming helps them develop a sense of purpose and passion as they witness their own progress and feel confident and motivated to achieve more.
Close your eyes and picture clear, azure water, the light glistening off it. For most of us, this image is almost therapeutic and takes us to a serene, meditative space; we experience a calm, relaxed feeling when we're in or under water. The hydrostatic pressure, which is the pressure of the water as it moves over on the body and the head, creates a massaging sensation and fosters relaxation. Swimming can be an exceptional stress reliever and mood enhancer, particularly if you follow the proper swimming and breathing techniques.
Team sports like soccer or baseball, that need children to focus on not only their own role but also be aware of those of the other players, can be difficult for children with ADHD. These kids tend to do better at individual-oriented sports, like swimming or tennis. Swimming, even on a team, is highly individualistic in nature and works well for those with ADHD as there is no physical contact with others and fewer opportunities for distraction.
Those who suffer from ADHD get bored easily and quickly. Swimming teaches them focus and discipline while simultaneously being fun, it feels more like play than exercise. And of course, kids tend to want to do more and more of all that is fun for them!
Swimming, accompanied by a doctor’s care, can be a wonderful way to engage your child and help him calm the feelings of restlessness and impulsivity that accompany ADHD.