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How Does Karate Help Kids With ADHD?

by Erica Loop

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website, more than 6 million kids in the U.S. take some form of martial arts classes. Although it might seem that these programs are primarily physical, classes such as karate can help children develop the concentration, self-control and focusing skills that can help to mediate behaviors associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Background

Gaining a full understanding of what ADHD is and how it affects the child is key to getting the full picture when it comes to looking at this disorder and the benefits karate classes might have. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD is a fairly common disorder that includes symptoms such as being easily distracted, feeling forgetful, an inability to focus or pay attention for more than a few minutes, trouble completing tasks such as homework, daydreaming, fidgeting and constant movement or motion. This doesn't mean that the typical ADHD child is constantly running around, screaming and switching activities. Children with this disorder might also seem quiet, but might lack the ability to concentrate or focus on even a simple task. Not every child with ADHD will exhibit the same behaviors, making it virtually impossible to find a one-size-fits-all treatment. While psychotherapy and medications are common, and often effective, treatments, alternatives such as karate also are becoming popular options for children.

Exercise

An activity such as karate is a physical pursuit. The exercise that your child gets during her karate class, including kicking, punching, jumping and other movements, might actually help abilities such as focusing and attention. According to "ADDitude" magazine, engaging in physical exercise will cause the brain to release chemicals known as endorphins, as well as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These chemicals, which are often low in kids with ADHD, can help regulate mood and increase attention and concentration.

Discipline

One of the major facets of karate, as a martial art, is the expectation of discipline on the part of the student. The martial arts have a long history that includes physical and mental discipline. The discipline that is necessary for a child to participate in karate can help him to build focus, concentration and attention abilities. Frequent training can take these skills out of the dojo -- or training area -- and into the child's daily life at school and at home.

Structure

Although kids, even those with ADHD, need unstructured or free play time, a structured activity can help provide valuable predictability for a child with ADHD. Not only does each class provide a sense of structure for the child with ADHD, but the advancement structure -- setting goals and moving up one belt at a time -- provides an environment that can help children with behavior issues focus and concentrate on completing tasks.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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