Study finds “green time” may benefit ADHD sufferers

By Marcus Wordlaw

Research by University professors shows work before play may not be more favorable to kids suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Their research shows these kids may respond more positively to outdoor activities before engaging in tasks like homework.

A research project conducted by Frances Kuo, associate professor of natural resources and developmental sciences at the University, tested 400 children from the general population and observed their time spent with nature. The key component to this experiment was the response to work after a few hours relaxing outside. Although the results varied, her research team discovered that overall, these children became increasingly calm after participating in outdoor activities.

“The research we did on these children showed us that contact with nature helped improve attention and pulse control,” said Kuo.

Her team felt the results were strong enough to assume ADHD sufferers would respond in a similar, more conscientious manner when trying to concentrate on work.

ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood, making it difficult for sufferers to control their behavior and attention, according to the National Institute of Mental Health’s Web site.

Kuo refers to the time spent in nature as “green time,” which she said is helpful in diminishing symptoms of ADHD. Even a short amount of time spent in nature allows the mind to clear itself of thoughts and scattered ideas, Kuo said. ADHD sufferers will commonly try to focus on more than one idea at once, creating strewn thoughts and a feeling of confusion.

Taking a jog around campus or studying beneath a tree are examples of green time that college students might typically engage in. Any event outside that promotes relaxation is considered “green time.”

“Even a very short exposure to nature would help these kids,” Kuo said. “Anything can count as green time, so long as it is outside.”

The research found that for a limited time, the mind is at ease after a good amount of green time, which helps a student to focus more clearly on his or her work.

“Think of it like a rechargeable battery,” said Amy Ritter, graduate student in ACES who is also an independent ADHD researcher and proponent of green time. “Your mind is being charged outside, then put back to work inside.”

Ritter herself suffers from ADHD and has always thought there were alternate options to medication, which can produce side effects. She said she feels that the tranquility of nature is what produces a positive response in patients. Nature is peaceful to the mind, and this peacefulness carries over to work if conducted immediately after spending time outside.

Ritter, as she suggests in her research, always makes a conscious effort to go outside before getting work done.

“I take my research to heart,” she said, shortly before attending to her own outdoor garden.