In addition to giving kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, all of the physical benefits of exercise, including improved cardiovascular health and better strength and flexibility, karate might also lessen ADHD symptoms, such as impulsiveness and hyperactivity. It can also provide positive role models for children with ADHD and provide opportunities for peer interaction,
Children with ADHD often think ahistorically, according to the Babycenter parenting website, which means they fixate on the present and lack a clear picture of the past and the future. Activities with a lot of waiting time or complicated instructions can cause them to lose their focus and their interest and ability to complete the activity. The intense mental and physical involvement required to participate in karate classes allows ADHD children to immerse themselves in the activity. This can help them complete the activity, which can boost their self-esteem and confidence in themselves.
Karate classes emphasize self-control, including self-discipline and respect for yourself and others. The typical karate class begins and ends with a bow to the teacher. Children must also stand quietly and wait for their instructor’s next command. Since self-control is often under-developed in children with ADHD, the increased emphasis on these skills can carry across into their home life or school environment. This can lead to better grades and improved behavior. Karate can also provide aggressive ADHD kids with a healthy way to work out their aggression.
Improved Focus and Concentration
John Ratey, M.D, the author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” tells ADDitude magazine that regular exercise, like karate, can turn on a child’s attention system – consisting of the cerebellum, frontal cortex and limbic system – which can affect the parts of the brain responsible for sequencing, prioritizing, working memory and sustaining attention. According to Ratey, exercise does this by increasing the brain’s dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These brain chemicals can positively affect the attention system’s ability to stay regular and consistent, which can increase alertness in children with ADHD.
Most experts recommend that children use karate to complement, not replace, their ADHD medications. Ratey maintains that combining martial arts and medication lessens ADHD symptoms more than the use of medications alone. He also stresses that while exercise in general is good for children with ADHD, martial arts offers more benefits than many other forms of exercise, such as soccer or baseball. Before starting your child in karate classes, talk to his pediatrician to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your child’s situation.