Back in February, we told you about a report that revealed if your child is one of the more than 4 million kids in the United States diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, their attention-deficit problems may actually improve faster when behavioral therapy is the first treatment they receive.
Good news for all the parents out there who are worried about the potential long-term side effects of popular ADHD meds like Adderall and Ritalin.
Now comes another study with an even more favorable headline: Children with ADHD may benefit by making some healthy lifestyle changes such as drinking more water, spending less time online, and getting at least one hour of physical activity per day.
Could it really be that easy?
Researchers looked at whether or not 184 children with ADHD ages 7 to 11 were following the health recommendations set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Sleep Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding sleep, screen time, physical activity, and beverage consumption. Then they compared the results to those of 104 kids who had not been diagnosed.
What they found was that the kids with ADHD spent more time online (more than two hours a day) and less time reading (less than one hour a day). They also consumed more artificially sweetened juice, and engaged in fewer hours of physical activity. And their parents were more likely to report they had a hard time falling asleep—something that, in turn, may be be leading to behavior problems.
"Parents of children with ADHD should talk with their pediatrician about how to improve health behaviors, such as limiting screen time, encouraging physical activity, improving bedtime routines, and drinking water rather than other beverages," said lead study author Kathleen Holton, who added that changing multiple lifestyle behaviors at once may even lead to other healthy behaviors. "For example, physical activity increases thirst, making water consumption more attractive. Physical activity can also offset screen time and can improve sleep."
More research is still needed, but since many parents of children diagnosed with ADHD do not want their children on meds, Holton said having their children follow healthy lifestyle behaviors "may be an effective intervention either alongside or in the place of traditional ADHD medications."