On the Power of Movement

I’m doing some research for a lecture I’m going to give on ADHD and exercise, and I stumbled upon some studies that throw me back thirty years in time. Back to middle school and high school. What I read makes me proud of the girl I once was and how she turned an impossible situation into something constructive and sustainable. Let me tell you!

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

My aunt Eva, was a Montessori teacher at a preschool where I grew up. I ended up in the Montessori pedagogy. Not because of any special philosophy in our family, but simply because I wanted to hang out with aunt Eva as soon as I got the chance. 

Looking back, it seems like an incredibly lucky coincidence. Because the Montessori school (at least in Sweden during the ’80s and ’90s) was characterized by small classes consisting of grades 1–3 and 4–6. Where one teacher taught all subjects and the classrooms were designed like cozy libraries or living rooms. 

Every Friday, we sat in a circle on the floor with our “planning books” and wrote down our ambitions for the upcoming week. All subjects had to be covered, but we planned ourselves how much time we intended to spend on each subject that week. 

Miss Britt in grades 1–3 and Miss Anna in grades 4–6 were nearby and sometimes they came with a small suggestion. However, as I remember it, I (and my inborn competitive spirit) got to steer quite a lot myself. 

When we arrived in the morning, we ran into the school and chose a place to sit. Either in the classroom or outside (only the 6th graders were trusted to work in the “cozy room”). As I recall school back then, I was constantly in motion, both in the classroom and during breaks. And I loved school! 

It was in 7th grade that my uphill battle began.

It probably wasn’t just because we innocent Montessori kids were transferred to a regular school. And because I, along with thirty other teenagers, were expected to sit still on a bench for hours on end. Looking back, I realize that it coincided with all the existential, biological and social changes that puberty brings.

Regardless, I quickly realized that it didn’t work for me. My brain seemed to work differently because I didn’t pick up a single syllable of what was said in class, and after school, I found myself sitting, reading the same sentence over and over until I either fell asleep or sugar-shocked myself into a beginning of overweight.

“I was a high performer living on old merits. I loved learning new things and had a joyful competitive spirit, but I was totally tied down by a brain that couldn’t handle information with these new conditions.”

Here, I want to give my 14-year-old self a pat on the back. Because even though this was a desperate and depressing period in life, she still managed to find a way around her challenges.

Somehow, I realized that I would never be able to use the advice and tips that worked for others without having to find my own way of learning. I couldn’t then, and can’t now, sit still and concentrate in a room full of others. 

My solution? Up and about! Out and walking!

My solution? Up and about! Out and walking!

I spent my time at school zoomed out, and immediately after school, I took my books in hand and a highlighter behind each ear and went out. I walked and walked and walked and walked… with my nose buried in the books. There were probably a few people wondering who this lunatic was. And I was probably close to being run over several times without knowing it, but it was such a delightful feeling. The feeling of my brain working again.

“It’s also through being in motion, that I’ve managed to absorb so much of the knowledge I needed to educate myself into what I dreamt of…”

…to be able to research and write books. And to find smart ways to absorb knowledge in ways other than sitting still at a desk and reading,

Today, there are also so incredibly many more options for us that can’t focus when we should.  Podcasts, recorded lectures, audiobooks and AI tools for having scientific studies read aloud are lifesavers!

What a coincidence then, when I was out running listening to some of the studies I was curious about before my next lecture. And I stumbled upon the study “Give your ideas some thoughts”1 exploring how physical activity can stimulate creative thinking!

I really recommend it and the other studies that show how exercise and movement are especially important in ADHD (Check the list below ).

No matter which way you attack them 😊 

Movement is important for us living with ADHD

It can’t have escaped anyone that physical activity is good for everyone. It seems like it’s even better for us with a psychiatric diagnosis. But it probably hasn’t escaped anyone either that it can also be so much harder to get physical activity due to our diagnoses. 

“For me, it has helped that I’ve been able to “kill two birds with one stone”. “

When I bike to work (I HATE biking, but not as much as I HATE crowding on a noisy bus) and listen to a scientific study, I can almost feel that I’ve done my bit for the day before I even pick up my laptop and start working. 

And it’s always nice to start on the plus side!

/Lotta Borg Skoglund

Want to know how to incorporate exercise into your routine? Check out:
Move more, live better with physical activity
Just do it! Exercise tips from Greta the PT-Psychologist

Reading list:

  1. “Give your ideas some legs: the positive effect of walking on creative thinking.” by Oppezzo M, Schwartz DL. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2014 Jul;40(4):1142-52. doi: 10.1037/a0036577. Epub 2014 Apr 21. PMID: 24749966.

    “Effects of Physical Activity on Inhibitory Function in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” by Wang M, Yang X, Yu J, Zhu J, Kim HD, Cruz A. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Jan 6;20(2):1032. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20021032. PMID: 36673793; PMCID: PMC9859519.

    “Comparative effectiveness of various physical exercise interventions on executive functions and related symptoms in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review and network meta-analysis.” by Zhu F, Zhu X, Bi X, Kuang D, Liu B, Zhou J, Yang Y, Ren Y. Front Public Health. 2023 Mar 24;11:1133727. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1133727. PMID: 37033046; PMCID: PMC10080114.

Latest posts
  • Blog

Blog User Story from the founder of the Swedish Instagram account @adhdbikt

I am a woman about to turn 36, living with my partner for 10 years and our two daughters, a 4-year-old and a 4-month-old baby. I did well in school, had good grades in both elementary and high school and pursued further studies in college. I knew what I wanted and that I needed good […]

Overthinking is common with ADHD, but there are ways to improve.
  • Blog

Unhook Yourself from Overthinking!

Overthinking is a common problem for ADHD and AuDHD women. And it causes so much suffering when we get caught up in it. In this blog, we introduce some alternative ways of improving our mental flexibility by challenging the ADHD brain’s fear of chaos. Are you one of us who can easily turn everyday decisions […]

For a mother with Audhd it's important to understand her strengths
  • Blog

Happy Mother’s Day All AuDHD Moms!

A day for AuDHD moms to stand tall and be proud of fighting for their child’s best! Becoming a parent was undeniably one of the most significant and defining moments in my life. From the day I became a mom 21 years ago, there has never been a doubt in my mind that this was […]