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Home > ADD/ADHD > Exercise, Sensory Integration and Natural Tx for ADHD

Exercise, Sensory Integration and Natural Tx for ADHD

Why Exercise?

Why swinging, jumping, running, playing sports, and MOVEMENT feeds your brain and helps with focus, mood, attention, and improves behaviors!

"SPARK" by Dr. Ratey is one of the best books I have read to understand why sensory integration theory works so well with children and adults who have ADHD!  He provides the scientific proof on how proprioceptive (joint and muscle inputs)  and vestibular (movement of the head and body)  inputs have such a powerful and therapeutic effect on development, learning, mood, and behaviors!

SPARK The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Supercharge your mental circuits to beat stress, sharpen thinking, lift your mood, boost your memory, and much more. By John J. Ratey, MD 2008 —

Exercise for your BRAIN —

Research has proven that exercise calms the brain, increases our stress threshold, improves learning, and can be preventative in hippocampus pruning! 

— Internal Brain Anti-oxidants called BDNF, FGF-2, and VEGF are all generated by muscle contractions to support neurons and connections. —

Exercise increases neurotransmitters vital to learning and attention, good sleep cycles, and mood like dopamine and serotonin.

— Exercise has been scientifically proven to be more effective than antidepressant drugs in several studies.

Exercise and ADHD: — Dopamine and norepinephrine regulate the attention system exercise helps increase these neurotransmitters. — New receptors are grown with exercise for these NTs. — New dopamine receptors are created in the basal ganglia with movement!

Sensory integration based therapies are based on helping the brain "get ready" for learning by incorporting senory breaks into the child's day that include intensive movement and muscle and joint activities. 

That is why at the Center of Development we begin each 1 hour long therapy session with therapeutic procedures that include very powerful vestibular (swinging, jumping, rolling, infinity walks, balance activities), proprioceptive (weighted activities, weight bearing on hands and knees, jumping, wheelbarrow walking, cross crawling, weighted ball, etc.), and deep pressure touch (calming deep pressure therapeutic procedures like massage, vibration mats, hand hugs, etc.) to help the brain calm, and be in a READY LEARNING STATE before doing fine motor table top tasks. 

Exercise that stimulates the cerebellum helps decrease fidgeting, motor coordination, and therefore attention and focus. —

 Movement helps to regulate the Amygdala in the Limbic system so that we dont overreact to new stimuli.

— Exercise and the Brain Changes: — Prefrontal cortex helps us have control over impulses and keep our attention. — A 2006 study from the University of IL used MRI scans showing that as little as walking for exercise 3 times a week showed increased volume of the prefrontal cortex.

Intracellular effect of dopamine and norepinephrine in the prefrontal cortex helps boost the synaptic signal and quality while decreasing the static of the neuron chatter (irrelevant signals) according to Yale University scientists. —

Macrophages increase in number and appetite with brain damage to clean up. What makes macrophages work better? Movement, joint input, deep pressure touch! —   The basis for sensory integration based therapies! 

Thought to Ponder... You can have good neurotransmitter levels but without the appropriate connections then the signal is frazzled, unclear, or even lost. Think about a row of Christmas tree lights, the electricity is ready (like neurotransmitters), but you plug in an old set of lights that need repair, the cord is loose and several of the bulbs are out (synaptic connections and areas of processing). The result is a poor signal and pathetic looking lights! —

How do you improve brain connections? — If neurotransmitter levels are normal (MD can test for these levels and should) but client is still displaying SPD symptoms, dyspraxia, poor attention, or even mood disorder then a good exercise and nutrition plan may be the answer. —

Does your child know something one day...and can't recall this information the next? 

Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is released when you exercise or move muscles and joints! — BDNF strengthens the myelin sheath along with Essential Fatty Acids from Fish Oil Fish oil or Omega 3s and WATER make the myelin sheath and FEED IT! WOW! —

Miracle Grow for the Brain!!! — BDNF protects neurons against cortisol in areas the control mood and memory in the hippocampus. —

Movement....BDNF...Miracle Grow of the brain... encourages neurons to connect to one another and grow making it vital for neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. —

BDNF also turns on genes to produce more neurotransitters (like Serotonin) and neurotrophins. —  This is why sensory integration therapies, a good sensory diet, and aerobic movement and exercise for children can help decrease behaviors, aggression, hyperactivity, and help them calm and learn!

More benefits of therapeutic exercise:

Stops pruning and self destructive cellular activity, meaning that what you learned yesterday you can recall today!  

— Releases brain anti-oxidants to help with brain health!

— Provides the proteins uses as building material for axons and dendrites, meaning quicker motor skills, better attention, and better ability to filter out background sounds!

What are neurotransmitters- The Chemicals that fertilize our brain!

1. Human touch increases nerve growth factor, helping better connections to be made in the brain.  This is why a baby needs to be held, a toddler needs floor play with loved ones, and our school age children need a hug as often as needed!  We were created to need touch for a reason, it helps our neurons grow! 

2. Glutamate & ACH are released- 80% of signaling carried out by these 2 NT that are critical for learning and build on memory.

3. GABBA in the CEREBELLUM to turn the volume down on sensations. Inhibitory chemical and responds directly to PROPRIOCEPTION (joint input).

4. Biogenic Amines- make it possible for our cells to learn!

5. Dopamine- volitional motor activity and activates us to move. The just right amount helps us to focus, attend, and concentrate on things. Pressure touch and movement increase nerve growth factor and dopamine. —

6. Serotonin- master modulator for all the other neurochemicals in the brain. Helps with the filter pathways and keeps other chemicals in line. — Mediates dopamine- reigns on the race horse (i.e. keeps us calmer and focused). — Stress depletes serotonin levels. Stress can be internal (emotions, food sensitivities, gut issues) or external (dealing with the sensory world around us)! —

SSRIs (most ADHD drugs) prevent the reuptake of Serotonin, keeping more floating around to be used in the brain.  Some this can work for, some this causes more depression and suicidal thoughts & most would rather get it naturally then artificially. — Remember the Christmas light analogy?  If your connections are bad, then it doesn't matter how much Serotonin you have floating is still a faulty connection.  This is why sensory integration based therapies work!  They feed the connections!  Add nutritional based therapies with DHA, water, and exercise then you get the miracle grow working on your connections! 

Remember you can have plenty of NTs but poor connections,  may be why ADHD drugs only without diet, exercise and therapies work for very few!

—Your WORKING MEMORY comes from serotonin!  It helps us have and control 5-7 thoughts at the same time.

Serotonin is greatly affected by sleep, getting deep sleep, enough sleep, good nutrition and hydration!

—What else increases Serotonin naturally?  

Mastering something (learning something new ) or natural light or the color green of nature can also increase a small dose of serotonin. —

Proprioception (using joints and muscles, especially things like jumping, running, and high aerobic exercise)  increases serotonin.

Helps nerve growth factor to be released. — Remember BDNGF-Brain derived nerve growth factor also comes joint and muscle inputs. —

Norepinephrine —

Norepinephrine- attention chemical and aggression part of sympathetic nervous system (the fight of fight, flight, fright) —.  This chemical is released too much in children with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and emotional fears! 

Norepinephrine has to be controlled and done with deep pressure touch like therapeutic brushing, massage, vibration mats, and of course movement! 

Selective attention (being able to focus in on work and filter out the background sensory stimuli) is based in hippocampus and surface of the cerebral cortex. — Selective atttention is Increased with movement activity helping increase FOCUS. 


— Histimine- Conductor of the chemical orchestra within the brainstem. — You need good levels of histamine to be controlled! — Different nuances of behavior for relaxed, activated, focused, relaxed and focused. — Irritation causes release which in turn effects the orchestra of all the biogenic amines. — Allergies can cause a vicious circle of being off beat

To help get your histamine levels correct, don't take daily allergy meds, Increase your serotonin naturally!  Decrease food sensitivities by getting blood test called ELISA  ( IgG and IgA food sensitivity test) change your diet and GET OFF ANTIHISTAMINES.  Find the CAUSE of the allergies, eczema, bowel issues, sinus infections, and ear infections...usually as simple as a casein (cow milk) and gluten (wheat) free diet! 

 The Power of Touch and Movement:  —

Stimulation of peripheral nerves (especially vibration or pressure touch receptors) gives strong Epicritic sensation which is calming and organizing. —

Activation of the serotonergic system (serotonin release) more with joint and muscle inputs —than any other input.

Inhibition of the afferent Protocritic Sympathetic Nervous System responses for a calmer reaction or more cortical response to inputs.

— Modulation of efferent pain messages!

— Enhance GABBA chemistry enhancing the filtering effect of the cerebellum.

—— Pressure touch enhances the parasympathetic system to counteract sympathetic firing and clear stress reactions and chemicals! —

Pressure touch enhances pleasure chemistry in the limbic areas associated with dopamine.

— Physical movement and exercise release NTs and neurotropins which are fertilizers to the brain!

— Want to learn more about NTs? — Another great resource to learn more about the scientific and neurological basis for sensory integration theory is to attend the courses by: — Evaluation and Tx of Sensory Processing Disorder by Laura Barker —

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