How can Pilates support individuals with neurodevelopment disorders such as ADHD?


ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopment disorders of childhood.

Common symptoms of Children with ADHD are that they may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviours, or being overly active.

Whilst you may have a certain picture in your mind of ADHD it is important to note that there are three main types identified. The characterisation of each depends on the presentation of symptoms that are strongest for the affected individual.

The first is, Predominantly Inattentive Presentation:

This is where it is hard for the individual to organise or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.

The second is Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation:

This is where the person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.

Thirdly there is a Combined Presentation:

This is where the individual displays symptoms of the above two types in equal measures.

So why is Pilates helpful for treatment of ADHD ? Research demonstrates that exercise has been scientifically proven to treat the symptoms of medical conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Exercise turns on the attention system, what is often referred to as executive functions. These include processes like sequencing, working memory, prioritising, inhibiting, and sustaining attention.


Studies have also found that exercises, in which you have to pay close attention to body movements, tax the attention system which is very good for anyone with ADHD.


Exercise also acts as a type off medication, and for a handful of people it may even replace the need for medication or can be used in conjunction with medication to help increase attention and improve mood.


How, exactly, does exercise deliver these benefits to the ADHD brain? When you walk, run, or do a set of jumping jacks or pushups, your brain releases several important chemicals.


Endorphins are one such hormone-like compound (brain chemical) that helps to regulate mood, pleasure, and pain. That same burst of activity also elevates the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels. These are the brain chemicals that affect focus and attention, which are reduced in individuals with ADHD.


The result of this action is that it makes it easier for children to concentrate, memorise and be productive, whilst reducing impulsivity which supports thier necessary learning and development.


For children with ADHD, whose dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels are in low supply, being active helps elevate these levels enabling them to sustain attention and focus for longer periods.

Pilates specifically can benefit the ADHD brain in a number of other ways.

It supports children and adults to build confidence through improved coordination, agility and balance. A common characteristic of a child with ADHD is their self doubt. Exercise helps to reduce this by increasing their confidence in their own physical ability.

The focus of Pilates for the support of treatment of ADHD is beneficial due to its strong focus on mindfulness and the need to pay close attention to the movement of the body. This means the individual needs to remain present in the moment.

This focus further supports children to not only relax but also to develop a greater mind body connection that supports their neuro and social development.


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