Can a backyard trampoline be useful for treating ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) or minimizing symptoms?
It might sound as legit as suggesting warm milk to an insomniac, but there is actual research to back up the benefits of trampoline-jumping on the brain and body.
How does exercise like trampoline-jumping impact the ADHD brain?
According to studies, regular exercise can improve memory, executive function (the ability to make good choices), attention, and impulse control–all significant challenges with ADHD. Jumping on the trampoline, particularly in the morning, followed up with additional exercise an hour and a half later, can improve academic performance (Christiansen et al., 2019).
ADHD: A Growing Problem
Around 7% of children are diagnosed with ADHD as of 2019, up from ten years ago (Christiansen et al., 2019). Some scholars put the current percentage closer to 11%.
To put that percentage into perspective, a 2016 CDC stat reports that 6.1 million children (defined as age 2-17) were given a diagnosis of ADHD (Clopton, 2018).
There is a misconception that ADHD is simply hyper kids being kids, the result of too much sugar, or a problem of too many screens.
The diagnosis exists because there are real neurological symptoms that can be observed and tracked over time. Psychologists track behavior over a period of six months to make the diagnosis.
ADHD is thought to have both genetic (hereditary) causes, as well as environmental causes, like lack of nutrition or pollution.
Children aren’t the only ones who struggle with ADHD. Adults can have it, too.
Children with ADHD do not simply grow out of it, although they may find ways of coping with their challenges: academically, in work settings, and socially.
While medications do exist to stimulate parts of the Central Nervous System, how well they work varies from person to person, and there are about 20% of patients who receive no benefit from available medications (Christiansen et al., 2019).
There is a need for lifestyle remedies to help with some of the more pressing symptoms of ADHD.
Not surprisingly, many researchers have focused on the neurological and psychological benefits of exercise in general. The research has been fruitful!
The Benefits of Regular Exercise
In a case study of kindergarten students in South Dakota in 2016, regular “activity stations” involving a trampoline, a balance beam, crawling, and hopscotch improved the children’s ability to stay on task in the classroom throughout the day (Wiebelhaus & Hanson, 2016).
In their study on the effects of exercise on kids and teens with ADHD, Christiansen’s group discovered that the consensus of studies pointed toward a range of benefits to the brain in cognitive tests.
“Recently, Cornelius et al. summarized and combined evidence from 20 original studies and concluded that physical activity regardless of intensity, length, duration and frequency had beneficial effects for children with ADHD.”From Journal of Clinical Medicine
This is encouraging for parents who are looking for ways to help their children develop better executive function, attention, and memory. However, researchers warn that more targeted studies are needed to determine exactly what types of exercise are most beneficial for a particular brain benefit.
The Magic of the Trampoline
If you’re a parent looking for a way to help your child (or yourself) cope with the symptoms of ADHD, a preponderance of evidence points toward exercise being a big help!
A favorite form of backyard exercise is the trampoline, and it’s no wonder. Until they grow up and fulfill their lifelong dreams of becoming astronauts, for most children jumping on a trampoline is as close as they’ll get to the feeling of flying.
Trampolines as therapy is not a new idea! Eddy Anderson founded Rebound Therapy in 1972 based on the idea that trampolining is an exercise with benefits for many different needs. At his UK-based website, Eddy Anderson has provided training courses and teaching resources for using trampolines to promote the overall health of any child.
“REBOUND THERAPY IS used to facilitate movement, promote balance, promote an increase or decrease in muscle tone, promote relaxation, promote sensory integration, improve fitness and exercise tolerance, and to improve communication skills.”From Rebound Therapy
From improved balance to improved communication skills, Eddy Anderson touts the trampoline’s benefits to the whole child.
Improved muscle tone may be even more important for alleviating symptoms of ADHD than it seems at first glance.
Wiebelhaus and Hanson referenced another researcher in their paper, V. Strauss, who wrote that “some children have poor core strength and balance due to underdeveloped vestibular (balance) systems.”
The vestibular system involves fluid in your inner ears that tells you when you’re right-side up or upside-down, and whether or not you are spinning.
A trampoline is ideal both for building core strength and activating the vestibular system, which is crucial to proper nervous system development.
You want the vestibular system communicating with the brain, and the whole body to be connected and in tune with itself. This is that “sensory integration” Eddy Anderson was talking about.
All of this neurophysical development is going to help any child, including those suffering with ADHD.
Strauss insisted that fidgeting was a sign that children hadn’t had enough physical activity.
While parents with children exhibiting ADHD symptoms might be tired of hearing these types of generalizations, the evidence shows that regular physical activity really does help ease the neurological symptoms of ADHD.
5 Tips to Implement Daily Trampolining For ADHD Relief:
- Start in the morning. Before you get going on tough mental tasks, get your jumps in.
- Be consistent. The best results came as a result of daily, regular exercise, so jump everyday.
- Do your exercise intermittently. Remember recess? About an hour and a half after the first round of jumps, the benefits to your attention may start to wane. Get back into it for fifteen more minutes before resuming your mental workout. This’ll give you the best effect on memory and attention.
- Stay safe. While a trampoline does provide an incredible core workout, and make you feel for a moment like you’re flying, it can be dangerous if safety rules aren’t followed. Use your trampoline responsibly.
- Mix it up. Trampoline jumping is great exercise, but combined with other physical tasks like balancing, climbing, crawling, and dancing, it’s even better.
While the jury may still be out on whether or not trampolines are the cure-all some claim them to be, you can’t go wrong with daily exercise that makes you and your kid smile.
One of the best parts of the case study on kindergarten students was the response of the kids when they were asked how they liked the jumping-balancing-crawling-hopscotch stations.
One girl called Emily said, “When I jump on the trampoline, it helps me sit still because I did something fun” (Wiebelhaus & Hanson, 2016).
All the participants agreed that jumping on the trampoline was their favorite station. They were happy to be having fun while growing their muscles (Wiebelhaus & Hanson, 2016).
When we can help a child improve his or her ability to think, remember, and learn while also increasing personal confidence in their strength and growth, I think we can all agree that’s a win/win.
Be sure to check out our other articles here on Backyardables about trampoline safety, maintenance, and repair!
Christiansen, L., Beck, M.M., Bilenberg, N., Wienecke, J., Astrup, A., Lundbye-Jensen, J. (2019) Effects of exercise on cognitive performance in children and adolescents with ADHD: Potential mechanisms and evidence-based recommendations. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2019, 8(6), 841; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8060841.
Clopton, J. ADHD rising in the U.S., but why? (2018) WebMD Health News. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/news/20181126/adhd-rising-in-the-us-but-why.
Strauss, V. (2014, July 8). Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answersheet/wp/2014/07/08/why-so-many-kids-cant-sit-still-in-school-today
Wiebelhaus, S. E., & Hanson, M. F. (2016). Effects of classroom-based physical activities on off-task behaviors and attention: Kindergarten case study. The Qualitative Report, 21(8), 1380-1393. Retrieved from http://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol21/iss8/2