Childhood ADHD Linked to Physical Inactivity, Obesity

April 4, 2014
Jacquelyn Gray

ADHD in childhood is associated with an increased likelihood of obesity and physical inactivity during adolescence, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood is associated with an increased likelihood of obesity and physical inactivity during adolescence, according to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

To detect a possible link between ADHD and obesity, Alina Rodriguez, PhD, and colleagues at Imperial College London analyzed nearly 7,000 questionnaires submitted by teachers and parents of children aged 8 years with symptoms of ADHD and conduct disorder (CD). Children underwent subsequent health examinations at 16. The adolescent children who screened positive for ADHD went on to report their physical activity levels and eating habits.

The researchers discovered associations between obesity and ADHD, as well as a relationship between childhood physical inactivity and adolescent inattention.The researchers further asserted adolescents with CD exhibited many of the same physical trends observed in adolescent ADHD patients.

“Inattention-hyperactivity symptoms at 8 years were associated with indices of obesity at 16, adjusted for gender, baseline BMI, physical activity, family structure change, and maternal education,” the authors wrote. “Reduced physically active play in childhood predicted adolescent inattention.”

Moreover, while the researchers noted an association between physical inactivity and ADHD, they did not conclude that binge eating was exclusively tied to ADHD.

Rodriguez, a contributor to the study, commented on the importance of adequate physical activity in regards to childhood ADHD and behavioral issues.

“We think encouraging children with ADHD to be more physically active could improve their behavior problems as well as helping them to stay a healthy weight, and studies should be carried out to test this theory,” Rodriguez said in a statement.