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Early school sports reduce ADHD symptoms for girls in later years

Girls who played after-school sports in elementary school seem to have fewer symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder once they reach middle school, a new study suggests.

The research included both boys and girls, but the effect of sports on attention and behavior symptoms was only significant in girls.

“Girls, in particular, benefit from participation in sport when it comes to ADHD symptoms,” said lead author Linda Pagani. She’s a professor at the University of Montreal School of Psychoeducation in Quebec, Canada.

ADHD is a condition that includes ongoing patterns of inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity — issues that interfere with a person’s functioning or development, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

ADHD signs and symptoms include: Making careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work or during other activities; having difficulty paying attention in tasks like a lecture or lengthy reading assignment or during play; seeming not to listen when spoken to directly; interrupting others; fidgeting; leaving one’s seat when staying seated is expected; running around in inappropriate situations or feeling restless, in teens and adults.

The current study included nearly 1,500 children born in Quebec in 1997 and 1998. The group included 758 girls and 733 boys with complete data from age 6.

Parents were asked if kids participated in an extra-curricular physical activity with a coach or instructor between the ages of 6 and 10.

When kids were 12, teachers were asked to compare their ADHD symptoms and behaviors to their peers’. Teachers only looked for symptoms suggestive of ADHD, not a formal diagnosis, Pagani said.

Girls who consistently participated in organized sports were less likely to have ADHD symptoms than girls who didn’t, the study found. The researchers didn’t find a similar link for boys.

Pagani said organized sports likely help reduce ADHD symptoms in several ways: During an organized physical activity, kids have to listen and focus on what their coach is saying. It’s different from an unstructured after-school program where kids can do whatever they want.

Sports also help inhibit distraction and promote planning behavior, Pagani explained. Plus, sports get kids away from their screens and switching from one app to the next, and give them a chance to shake off some energy.

So, why wouldn’t sports make a difference for boys, too?

They probably do, Pagani said, but the upside wasn’t strong enough to be statistically significant.

“Boys are over-identified when it comes to any kind of ADHD symptoms,” she said. “For every three boys with ADHD, only one girl will get identified. Girls may not be getting pharmacology [medications] and psychotherapy that boys often do. In this particular domain, because girls are under-identified and under-treated, they tend to benefit a lot from sports.”

All kids — both girls and boys — can benefit from taking part in organized sports, Pagani said.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., reviewed the findings.

“Although the researchers found an association in girls between organized sports

Girls on the Run International Establishes Commission for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access

Girls on the Run inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident.
Girls on the Run inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident.
Girls on the Run inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident.

Charlotte, NC, Oct. 01, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, Girls on the Run International (GOTRI) announced the establishment of its inaugural IDEA Commission to support inclusion, diversity, equity and access across the national nonprofit organization. GOTRI designs programming that strengthens third- to eighth-grade girls’ social, emotional, physical, and behavioral skills to successfully navigate life experiences. More than 2 million girls have participated in the program since it launched 24 years ago.

“This commission will help us deliver on our commitment to be a place where all people feel welcome, worthy and empowered,” said Elizabeth Kunz, CEO of Girls on the Run International. “Staff and volunteer leaders from throughout our organization were intentionally selected to ensure a wide range of perspectives and experiences are brought to the meaningful work of advancing inclusion, diversity, equity and access at Girls on the Run.”

The commission will be led by Juliellen Simpson-Vos, vice president of council development at GOTRI, and Ivory Patten, legal manager at GOTRI. Elizabeth Kunz, CEO, will serve on the committee to assist in strategic guidance and oversee organizational commitment. The following individuals will be serving on the IDEA Commission and developing the organization’s national IDEA vision and strategy:

Mollie Anderson, Chicago, Illinois

Melida Barbosa, New York, New York

Kathleen Cannon, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Rakesh Gopalan, Charlotte, North Carolina

Tenika Hill, Riverside, California

Erica Hernandez, San Francisco, California

Rachel de Jesus, Flagstaff, Arizona

Hao Le, San Jose, California

Sonal Modisette, Seattle, Washington

Jennifer Passey, Fairfax, Virginia

Kaityre Pinder, Atlanta, Georgia

Meg Pomerantz, Durham, North Carolina

Elena Simpkins, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Megan Wolfe, Mountlake Terrace, Washington

The IDEA Commission will oversee seven subcommittees created to inform, deepen and articulate the activities and outcomes of the Commission. To learn more about the organization’s ongoing commitment to IDEA, please visit https://www.girlsontherun.org/inclusion-diversity/

ABOUT GIRLS ON THE RUN INTERNATIONAL Girls on the Run International designs programming that strengthens third- to eighth-grade girls’ social, emotional, physical, and behavioral skills to successfully navigate life experiences. Each year, more than 200,000 girls ages eight to 13 participate in communities in 50 states and Washington DC. More than 2 million girls have participated in the program since it launched in 1996. The curriculum reaches girls at a critical stage, strengthening their confidence at a time when society begins to tell them they can’t. Underscoring the important connection between physical and emotional health, the program addresses the whole girl when she needs it the most. Results show GOTRI programs inspire and empower girls to build healthy physical and mental habits that last long beyond the program. According to a longitudinal study conducted by The University of Minnesota, 97% of Girls on the Run participants said they learn critical life skills including resolving conflict, helping others or making intentional decisions; and 94% of parents reported it was a valuable experience for their