Exercise and Physical Activity

  • Exercise can improve short-term memory, hyperactivity, impulsivity and attention in adults who have ADHD.
  • A short-term burst of exercise can help with concentration and speed up how long it takes for someone who has ADHD to complete a task.
  • Aerobic exercise (brisk walking, swimming, running or cycling) is particularly helpful and can also reduce worrying thoughts you might be having as it can help to alleviate the brain’s stress hormones.
  • If you are having difficulties concentrating, you might like to try going for a short walk or a run. Research has shown a short burst of exercise can help the ADHD brain’s ability to focus. You might also like to build exercise into a point in your day that you start losing concentration. This might mean organising an earlier or later break at work or trying to schedule classes to allow for some quick exercise.
  • As well as working exercise into your day, consider taking a break from work to do a walk around the block if possible, to get some fresh air and improve your concentration and impulsivity.
  • Like other tasks and activities, adults with ADHD can hyperfocus on exercise. Make sure to recognise when your body is tired and needs a rest, and to eat well and hydrate plenty.
  • Do exercise that you find rewarding and enjoyable. This could be walking, running, dancing, yoga, swimming, etc. Find something that makes you happy. This way, you can be connecting to different aspects of self-care – a quick way of checking in is to think about your FREES (Food, Rest, Exercise, Enjoyment, Socialisation).
  • You can find information about exercise from the HSE by clicking this link.


Abramovitch, A., Goldzweig, G., & Schweiger, A. (2013). Correlates of physical activity with intrusive thoughts, worry and impulsivity in adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A cross-sectional pilot study. Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 50(1), 47–54.

Gapin, J. I., Labban, J. D., Bohall, S. C., Wooten, J. S., & Chang, Y.-K. (2015). Acute exercise is associated with specific executive functions in college students with ADHD: A preliminary study. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 4(1), 89–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2014.11.003

Mehren, A., Özyurt, J., Lam, A. P., Brandes, M., Müller, H. H. O., Thiel, C. M., & Philipsen, A. (2019). Acute Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Executive Function and Attention in Adult Patients With ADHD. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00132

Vysniauske, R., Verburgh, L., Oosterlaan, J., & Molendijk, M. L. (2020). The Effects of Physical Exercise on Functional Outcomes in the Treatment of ADHD: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Attention Disorders, 24(5), 644–654. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054715627489