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Brain scan showing impact of exercise on brain activity

"Exercise is ADHD Medication" (2014) - Hillman study showed kids who took part in a regular exercise program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and executive control (inhibition, switching tasks, working memory), especially for those with ADHD.
"The role of exercise in managing ADHD medication" - Several research articles referenced.
"Single Bout of Exercise Benefits Children with ADHD" (U. of IL, U-C study) (2012) - Motivating children with ADHD to be physically active may have positive [effects] on aspects of neurocognitive function and inhibitory control
"How Does Exercise Improve ADHD Symptoms?" (2011) - PedMed interview with John Ratey, MD http://adhaclinicjeeva.com/jeevesdesk/pedmed.pdf
"Taking away recess bad for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder kids" (India) (2012) - Exercise and ADHD medications act on the brain in very similar ways, said Thomas Lenz, an associate pharmacy professor at Creighton University http://newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2012/05/26/219-Taking-away-recess-bad-for-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-kids.html
"Cure Winter Doldrums with In-Class Exercise: Get Up and Move! A Little Exercise May Boost Learning" - Charleston Progressive Academy reported a 95% drop in discipline issues after starting a before school physical activity program
"Can exercise improve behavior? Help encouraging a child who has autism" (2013) - Nationwide Children's Hospital - 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise improves behavior and attention in students with ADHD and ASD http://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2013/06/14/can-exercise-improve-behavior-help-encouraging-child-who-has-autism
"Four ways exercise can help improve autism-related behaviors" (2013) - Nationwide Children's Hospital director shares benefits of exercise for autism http://www.fitness2youkc.com/fitness-101/autism/
"The exercise effect" (2011) - Otto and colleagues reviewed 11 studies investigating the effects of exercise on mental health. They determined that exercise could be a powerful intervention for clinical depression http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx
"Exercise Boosts Mood Up to 12 Hours" (2009) - This study found that benefits lasted as long as 12 hours following activity, compared with rest.
"Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress (2013) - Princeton study finds physical activity reorganized brain so response to stress is reduced and less likely to interfere with normal brain function http://www.healthcanal.com/life-style-fitness/40480-exercise-reorganizes-the-brain-to-be-more-resilient-to-stress.html
"Brain Gains" - a CBC video about teacher Allison Cameron's success in using exercise in her class to improve the behavior and achievement of students with severe behavior issues
"Woodland Elementary School, Kansas City" - After instituting daily PE, discipline issues decreased by 60%
"Train Your Brain with Exercise" www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/train-your-brain-with-exercise
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"Researchers probe link between autism and gastrointestinal problems" (2013) - Gut bacteria distribution could play role in disease, brain development. http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2013/04/07/researchers_probe_link_between_autism_and_gastrointestinal_problems.html
"How Exercise changes the Neurons in Your Brain" (2013) - Princeton study linking exercise to reduced stress and anxiety. http://www.examiner.com/article/how-exercise-changes-the-neurons-your-brain
"Exercise Improves School Performance for Kids with ADHD" (2012) - MSU study demonstrating that 20 minutes of exercise improves attention and performance. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/251573.php
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Exercise works with the physiology of the brain to improve behavior. Exercise causes the release of neurotransmitters that activate the attention system, improve mood, decrease anti-social behavior, and increase pro-social behavior. This increases the opportunities to access executive functioning (i.e. problem solving, planning, sequencing, etc.) necessary for learning.
"Time In" is a specific strategy for kids with ADHD and other behavioral issues. By understanding their physiology and how to work with it, educators can reduce focusing simply on some of the traditional strategies - such as missing recess, critical feedback, and isolation - and incorporate a more proactive approach using exercise - particularly Exergaming (a highly interactive technology in the form of video games that require the player to be physically active to participate).
"Students obtain numerous behavioral and psychosocial benefits from physical activity...'Time In' is an essential strategy to use with students struggling with ADHA - to assist them in gaining the benefits that physical activity can bring."

Photo of John Ratey

John Ratey, M.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School
Author of SPARK
Schools are just beginning to understand the advantages of using Exergaming to support educational goals. Students, who are normally reluctant to exercise, are motivated to play Exergames. In addition to the benefits that the exercise provides to the attention system, mood, and learning, kids want to play Exergames with friends, thus strengthening social relationships.
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Photo of children on exercycles

The video below gives a detailed look at
"Time In Intervention with Exergaming".

John Ratey, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiary, Harvard Medical School, expert on ADHD.
"Tips for Developing Skills to Manage Anger in Children (and their Parents)" - Ned Hallowell (2013) Exercise, using words, negotiation are strategies
"ADD Classes" - Free teleseminars on ADHD: Tara McGillicuddy facilitates
"Exergame Powered by Motion Fitness" - Exergaming equipment
"Standing desks: The classroom of the future?" (2012) - Kids prefer standing desks plus improves behavior, learning, wellness.
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"Portable standing desks" - Adjustable height desks to elevate a regular desk area
"Fit Desks - Bike desks, elliptical desks, tabletop standing desks"
Photo of children sitting on exercise balls
"Stability balls" in place of student chairs. e.g.

Photo of children on exercycles


As a mental health provider in the public education setting, I have seen, developed, and implemented countless interventions and methods of supports to assist students and families facing emotional and behavioral challenges. The effectiveness and lasting impact of each specific approach have varied in magnitude and are often subject to extraneous or uncontrollable variables in a student's life. The constraints of trying to find the proper intervention for a given situation, deficit, diagnosis or ailment are often multiplied by challenges with student motivation, a lack of funding, time limitations, poor student attendance, and limited support from teachers/administration/family members.

I have spent countless hours trying to control for these confounding variables in search of the perfect intervention or the "right" approach toward helping students with the most profound and significant behavioral needs. Although I will not make the claim that a magic wand or silver bullet has been discovered to "fix" the challenges in these students' lives, I can say with a great deal of confidence that the exercise occurring through Exergaming has been by far the closest thing to a cure-all that I have seen in 8 years of practice.

I have always been a proponent and strong advocate for experiential and activity-based interventions for all individuals, but especially for those with challenges around emotion-regulation and impulse control. I have seen remarkable changes in individuals with engagement, self-regulation and self-esteem through interventions such as ropes courses, service learning, and cooperative problem solving. However, I had never anticipated the immediate and robust positive changes that I have witnessed through Exergaming in just a matter of weeks.

Students that previously had no outlet for excessive energy or psychomotor agitation suddenly had a positive, prosocial and popular way to channel their energy without feeling stigmatized or embarrassed for deficiencies in a task were soon able to double their time on task due to a small amount of preventive activity. In short, there have been undeniable positive changes in concentration, mood, attitude, and self-esteem across students since the development of our Exergaming lab.

Teachers have been able to increase the amount of time for direct academic instruction due to increased student engagement and focus. Plus, it has been an absolute joy to see my colleagues smile, laugh and engage with students in a genuine and earnest manner devoid of power struggles, stress and consternation. Students that have internalized the messages of worthlessness, skill-deficiency, disability, impoverishment, and being "stupid" have begun to entertain new self-concepts. Students are beginning to realize their value, competency, and potential worth of significant, trust, time, and financial investment, or in the words of a student, "Mr. Vogt, for the first time in my life, someone has trusted me with an Xbox and cared about me enough to get me one!"

Aaron Vogt, MSW
Vice President, Colorado School Social Workers Association
School Social Worker
Lincoln Middle School
Fort Collins, CO