Children with ADHD Less Likely to Exercise

A retrospective, population-based, cross-sectional study compared rates of physical activity among children with and without an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis.

This study evaluated data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). The parent-/caregiver-reported NSCH is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2016 survey included data on 50,212 children; the present study included children aged six to 17 years. Final analysis included 34,675 children who had complete data available on ADHD diagnosis. The survey determined ADHD diagnosis—the primary exposure for the present study—with the question, “Has a doctor or other healthcare provider [ever] told you that [your child] has … attention deficit disorder (ADD) or ADHD?”; severity was determined by asking, “If yes, is [your child’s ADD/ADHD] mild, moderate, or severe?”

The current study’s main outcome was measurement of physical activity, which was determined in the survey by asking, “During the past week, on how many days did [your child] exercise, play a sport, or participate in physical activity for at least 60 minutes?” The researchers deferred to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity per day for children to create a binary outcome variable: daily physical activity versus non-daily physical activity. A four-category variable was also created: zero days per week, one to three days per week, four to six days per week, and daily physical activity. Of the children included in the study, 11.7% had a lifetime ADHD diagnosis.

Children with ADHD were more likely than those without a diagnosis to report zero days of physical activity each week (14.3% vs. 8.2%), but rates of daily physical activity did not largely differ between those with and without a diagnosis (22.2% vs. 24.4%). When implementing the AAP’s daily exercise recommendation, children diagnosed with ADHD had a 21% lower adjusted odds ratio of participating in daily physical activity compared with those without a diagnosis.