Treating ADHD with a walk in the park

 “In the general population,” say researchers from the University of Illinois, “attention is reliably enhanced after exposure to certain physical environments, particularly natural environments.”

 Why not try it in kids with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

First, the details.

  • 17 children 7 to 12 years old with ADHD were randomly assigned to participated in each of 3 individually guided 20-minute walks in a city park and 2 other well-kept urban settings.
  • After each walk, concentration was measured using Digit Span Backwards — a part of IQ tests that measures of how well children use their working memory.

And, the results.

  • Children with ADHD concentrated significantly better after the walk in the park than after the downtown walk or the neighborhood walk.
  • The improvement was comparable to those reported for recent formulations of methylphenidate (Ritalin).

The bottom line?
 In kids with ADHD, 20 minutes in a park setting improved attention performance.

“Physical environment matters,” said Dr. Frances Kuo. “We don’t know what it is about the park, exactly — the greenness or lack of buildings — that seems to improve attention, but … even though everything else was the same (who the child was with, the levels of noise, the length of time, the time of day, whether the child was on medication) if we kept everything else the same, we just changed the environment, we still saw a measurable difference in children’s symptoms.”

 “And that’s completely new. No one has done a study looking at a child in different environments, in a controlled comparison where everything else is the same.”

10/17/08 10:03 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.