Pilates and ADHD

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Pilates as a Therapy Treatment for Symptoms of ADHD

Pilates has been recognised as an effective treatment tool in managing the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). While there is still much to learn about the disorder in the medical world, it is commonly thought that ADHD is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain which causes differences in how the brain develops and brain activity. People with ADHD have difficulty staying focused, sitting still and maintaining self-control.

They are quickly overstimulated by the world around them which makes them feel overwhelmed. It feels as though everything is happening at the same time and they can’t slow things down and process how to respond. They also struggle to rank the importance of things, a teacher speaking and a bird flying overhead feel just as important as each other.

ADHD is diagnosed by a medical professional and can be treated with medicine, behaviour therapy, coaching and support. Additionally, exercise is a great tool in managing symptoms of ADHD, but Pilates takes it a step further in fostering the mind-body connection. The combination of breathing patterns, complex movements and coordination are key to reducing the symptoms.

Performing Pilates exercises increases the blood flow to the brain which helps it to function more effectively. The coordination used during transitions and performing movements develops new neuron pathways in the brain, basically rewiring the brain and improving its ability to function. The breathing techniques help to balance the autonomic nervous system (the body’s control system that regulates functions such as heart rate, digestion and breathing). These breathing techniques also improve oxygenation of the blood which again leads to increased brain functionality.

During class, ADHD sufferers may lose focus, fidget and get distracted easily. To help keep their attention, try including props, more complex movements and cross-patterning. Draw them back to their breath and include stillness and mindfulness in your Pilates classes. Tactile cueing (a touch prompt) can help them feel which move or adjustment to make and keeping to no more than 10 reps consistently draws their attention back.

After class, people with ADHD tend to have an improved ability to focus. As with the rest of us, they also feel more centred and grounded. These things all play a role in regulating emotions and may help them to process the information around them in a more rational way.

Kids that have been diagnosed with ADHD can also benefit from Pilates as it increases attention and improves moods. It can also help kids to make less impulsive decisions and help their readiness to learn. Building up their confidence is a huge benefit as kids may tend to feel inadequate and begin to lack self-worth as they struggle to maintain “good” behaviour, especially in school.

The emotional and physical benefits Pilates can have for treating ADHD symptoms can be increased by consistent practice. Even 20 minutes a day can have a profound effect!


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