"Mens sana in corpore sano." A sound mind in a sound body. - Juvenal
In studies of 8- to 12-year-old boys, Psychology Professor Mark D. Rapport found that children with and without ADHD sat relatively still while watching Star Wars and painting on a computer program. but all became more active when asked to perform challenging working memory tasks like remembering letters numbers or shapes in particular sequences. Children diagnosed with ADHD were significantly more active, "moving their hands and feet and swiveling in their chairs more", but the critical finding is that the movements were helpful for the task and maintaining alertness. Adds Rappaport: "They use movement to keep themselves alert...They have a hard time sitting still unless they're in a highly stimulating environment where they don't need to use much working memory."
"When they are doing homework, let them fidget, stand up or chew gum," he said. "Unless their behavior is destructive, severely limiting their activity could be counterproductive."
From our practice, we agree with these findings wholeheartedly. Movements increase when a child has to work harder or boost his or her working memory to complete the job. The movements seem to generally alerting or helpful...it is only rarely the child who becomes distracted by his own movements. The biggest mistake that teachers can make is to scold the child with a "Keep still!" or sit on his hands. These are the children who especially need recess to focus on the rest of their desk-related school tasks.
At right, check on the result of high fit (cardiovascular fit) vs. low fit seniors undergoing cognitive testing. The high fit seniors were better able to focus and activate their working memories and spatial cortex for the task than their low fit counterparts.
(Thanks HT: Lori Fankhanel SPD Canada
Science Daily: Hyperactivity enables children to stay alert
Preview page for Hyperactivity in ADHD and working memory"
Cardiovascular Fitness, Cortical Plasticity, and Aging pdf