Tai Chi For ADHD: Training In Ancient Martial Art Lowers Hyperactivity In Children, Study Finds

BALTIMORE — Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can create challenges for young students and their parents too. For some, both children and adults, the disorder is treated with medication. A new study says there may be another way to help reduce the effects of ADHD: through the ancient practice of tai chi.

The study, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, reports that taking weekly classes in the martial art helped a group of 34 children better regulate their ADHD symptoms. Researchers say two 60-minute tai chi classes a week helped to improve the children’s control over hyperactivity and impulsive or inattentive behavior.

“The findings from this study provide support for a promising new avenue of behavioral intervention for children with ADHD and related difficulties,” Dr. Stewart Mostofsky of the Center for Neurodevelopmental and Imaging Research at Kennedy Krieger Institute said in a statement. “Crucially, the findings also suggest that mindful movement intervention contributes to parallel improvements in motor control.”

Mostofsky and other researchers studied the group of 8-12 year-old students who took the mindful movement training for eight weeks. Using parent assessments and motor control tests, the team concluded that tai chi exercises significantly improved a child’s motor control. The students also showed significantly reduced ADHD symptoms, such as hostility, disobedience, and the inability to make decisions.

The study notes that few experiments with mindful movement have been done with children diagnosed with ADHD. Researchers add that the previous studies had only gauged a child’s progress by self assessments or parent reviews. The research team believes this study will be more reliable because of the added motor control tests. Children who showed the biggest improvement in those tests also received the highest improvement ratings on the behavioral surveys from their parents.

Originally created as a form of self-defense, tai chi has evolved over time to become a great way to reduce stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, the ancient Chinese tradition can also help with various health conditions like high blood pressure, joint pain, and depression.

The researchers are now hoping to examine the impact of tai chi and mindful movement intervention on ADHD in a clinical trial.

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