Excerpt The Boy Crisis pages 358-359
One of the most obvious contributing factors that cause ADHD in children is lack of exercise. The early stages of brain development are particularly dependent on physical exercise, rough-and-tumble play, and bodily movement.[i] The brain needs regular, challenging, and varied physical movement to develop the ability to sustain healthy and appropriate focus. Without it, many children with ADHD simply cannot focus in school and often don’t listen to their parents at home.
Brain plasticity is a term describing the brain’s ability to adapt and change in response to our environment, and it’s one of the most exciting new fields of brain research. Brain scans in children have revealed that the brain actually changes its structure in reaction to various stimulation or lack of stimulation. Challenging physical exercise and new movements of the body are proven to create the most dramatic and positive changes in the brain.[ii]
Physical activity and movement exercise stimulate testosterone, which in turn stimulates the production of dopamine in the brain, and because boys are more dependent on testosterone than girls for healthy functioning, this means they are also more dependent on physical activity. When a child is tired, restless, or spaced out in a classroom, even a short recess for some physical activity can boost dopamine to awaken interest and motivation to listen and learn.
Up until the last two decades, brain scientists thought the brain stopped developing after the first few years of life. They believed brain connections were all formed during an early critical period and if a particular area was injured or undeveloped, those nerve cells could not form new connections or regenerate. New brain plasticity research has overturned this mistaken old view. At all stages of life, the brain has the potential to regenerate and reorganize itself to compensate for injuries or inflammation caused by toxins and nutritional deficiencies.[iii] Dr. Anat Baniel, a psychologist and bestselling author of Kids Beyond Limits, explains, “The greatest potential for transformation, though often difficult to grasp, is not in trying to make children do what they can’t, but in finding ways to help each child’s brain differentiate and spontaneously discover how to go beyond his or her limitations.”[iv]
Brain plasticity is very real. For example, research reveals significant changes in the brain from merely practicing a new song on the piano. From repeating specific and new hand movements for about two hours over a period of five days, significant brain growth occurred.[v] Brain scans have revealed that kids who play musical instruments have significantly more gray matter volume in the brain.[vi] And this new research into brain plasticity confirms that physical movement is one of the most powerful brain stimulators and helps develop a child’s brain.
[i] Jon Hamilton, “Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build a Better Brain,” Morning Edition, August 6, 2014, transcript, nprEd, NPR,http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain.
[ii] Mara Betsch, “Brain Games and Exercise: A Drug-Free Treatment for ADHD?” Health, February 29, 2016,http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20252861,00.html.
[iii] Stephanie Liou, “Neuroplasticity,” HOPES (blog), Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education, at Stanford, June 26, 2010,https://www.stanford.edu/group/hopes/cgi-bin/wordpress/2010/06/neuroplasticity.
[iv] Anat Baniel, “More Help for Children with Special Needs,” Anat Baniel Method, accessed October 18, 2017, http://www.anatbanielmethod.com/children/more-help-for-children-with-special-needs.
[v] Baniel, “Movement Techniques.”
[vi] Gwen Dewar, “Music and Intelligence,” Parenting Science, accessed October 18, 2017, http://www.parentingscience.com/music-and-intelligence.html.
Dr. Warren Farrell has been chosen by the Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders. His books are published in over 50 countries, and in 19 languages. They include The New York Times best-seller, Why Men Are the Way They Are, plus the international best-seller, The Myth of Male Power. His most recent is The Boy Crisis, (audio version) (2018, co-authored with John Gray). The Boy Crisis was chosen as a finalist for the Foreword Indies award (the independent publishers’ award).
Dr. Farrell has been a pioneer in both the women’s movement (elected three times to the Board of N.O.W. in NYC) and the men’s movement (called by GQ Magazine “The Martin Luther King of the men’s movement”). He conducts couples’ communication workshops nationwide. He has appeared on over 1000 TV shows and been interviewed by Oprah, Barbara Walters, Peter Jennings, Katie Couric, Larry King, Tucker Carlson, Regis Philbin, Dr. Phil, Jordan Peterson, and Charlie Rose. He has frequently written for and been featured in The New York Times and publications worldwide. Dr. Farrell has two daughters, lives with his wife in Mill Valley, California, and virtually at www.warrenfarrell.com.