• Alternative sports, including swimming, martial arts, and archery, have the potential to help adults with ADHD better manage their symptoms 
  • While some of the best sports for ADHD symptoms may seem unconventional, the nature of these immersive activities offers a unique way to cope with a potentially challenging mental health condition. 
  • Swimming may help to reduce ADHD symptoms by boosting dopamine in the brain while lowering levels of inflammation in the body.
  • Martial arts places an emphasis on breath control and body awareness and has been shown to increase the ability to focus on selective details.
  • Lastly, archery may help increase one’s self-confidence and ability to focus. Like martial arts, archery places a good deal of importance on breath control, which may help adults with ADHD reduce stress levels. 

Every fall, college and professional football games command center stage in living rooms across the country. Sitting down to watch sports can be relaxing, entertaining, and may even increase our self-confidence (unless our team loses). The benefits of watching sports have been apparent to psychologists for some time; but for those with ADHD, playing a sport may actually help reduce the symptoms of their condition. In research settings, certain sports have been shown to decrease our anxiety and stress while boosting our mood. But most critically, a select few sports may increase the brain’s ability to focus in those with ADHD.  

The science behind why exercise is good for our brains may seem complicated (chemicals re-balancing, re-wiring synapses), but the logic remains ecstatically simple: Get moving. And surprisingly, some of the best sports for ADHD symptoms might be activities that you haven’t tried yet. From martial arts to archery and swimming, discover the ways that sports can help those with ADHD better manage the effects of their condition. 

Swimming 

Swimming may not immediately come to mind as a way to manage ADHD, but taking some laps around the pool may be an effective strategy. Swimming may help those with ADHD by reducing their symptoms through boosting dopamine regulation in the brain, according to a watershed experiment using rats that was published in 2013. Dopamine helps improve our mood, making swimming one of the best sports for ADHD symptoms. Taking a dip can also help by lowering inflammation in the body, which may contribute to the irritation and inability to focus that’s classically associated with ADHD. Swimming in cold water may be especially helpful.

Famous swimmer Michael Phelps is well-known for his transparency regarding his own struggles with ADHD and depression. He and his family have shared over the years the ways in which his swimming routine helped keep his ADHD symptoms at bay

Martial Arts

Martial arts may help to reduce stress and anxiety, making it also one of the best sports for ADHD symptoms. These art forms have been practiced for centuries as a way of conditioning both the mind and body. While physical strength and control are essential to martial arts practices, the mental health benefits come from its emphasis on remaining calm and avoiding unnecessary action or emotion when dealing with conflict in order to remain completely aware. Practitioners have practically dozens of forms to choose from: Krav maga, TaeKwonDo, and Aikido are just a few of the more popular types of martial arts. 

Martial arts may alleviate ADHD symptoms in sufferers by increasing their ability to focus on selective details, a by-product of training discipline, according to an experiment conducted in 2019. Martial arts practitioners may learn breath control techniques, which aim to calm the mind and lower one’s heart rate and anxiety. Renowned mixed martial artist Gary Tonon has long claimed that the discipline and control of martial arts have helped him combat his own ADHD symptoms since teenhood. 

Archery

Perhaps the most unique (and least considered), archery is another great sport for adults with ADHD. If you’ve never picked up a bow and arrow, you’re not alone. Archery may not overtake football as America’s favorite sport, but it’s certainly been exploding in popularity for the past several years, with 7.7 million Americans having participated in the sport, according to a 2017 poll. Similar to martial arts, archery requires a considerable amount of concentration, focus, and breath control. Focusing on honing these abilities through archery may help to reduce stress levels, as shown by a study in 2017

If you’re wondering where in the world you could go to shoot a bow, check out this location-based map to search for a range near you. Many shops offer rental bows, guided lessons, and one-on-one instruction for beginners. Whether you become the next Robin Hood is up for debate, but you could end up with a sweet new hobby—maybe you’ll start to see for yourself how archery is one of the best sports for ADHD symptoms. 

Sports Aren’t Always the Answer — But Physical Activity Is Key

While talking with your doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist should always be the first step in managing the symptoms of any mental health condition, these three sports may offer unique ways to cope with ADHD. Swimming, martial arts, and archery can help people manage ADHD in adulthood through increasing dopamine production, breath control techniques, and ability to focus. And if despite all of their benefits, the three best sports for ADHD symptoms aren’t appealing, remember—the goal is simply to be active. Even taking a walk may alleviate some of the effects of ADHD. 

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