Exercise before the school day may reduce the severity of the symptoms of attention deficit with hyperactivity (ADHD). Betsy Hoza and her colleagues from the University of Vermont’s department of psychology found children ages 4 to 9 , half of which were felt to be at risk for ADHD, and the other half were felt to be developing typically.

These children were then divided into a group that remained in the classroom doing sedentary activities such as art projects and a group that did exercise. Parents and teachers measured ADHD symptoms before and after the exercise period of 12 weeks.

The children in the exercise group exercised for 30 minutes each school day, for 12 weeks. The exercise had to be continuous and vigorous enough to make them breath hard and to expand energy in a moderate to vigorous range. This happened each school day before school started.

After 12 weeks, they measured the children in both groups, the exercise group and the sedentary group. Overall the parents and teachers reported a reduction in ADHD symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors in the exercise group. This was true for both groups of children but greater in those children at risk for ADHD. Parents also reported less oppositional behavior and moodiness.

Physical activity appears to be a promising intervention method for ADHD, along with well-known benefits to health over all. This should give schools another reason to incorporate physical activity into the school day.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.