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ADHD and Sedentary Behavior

Just sitting around is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Sedentary behavior has been linked to all sorts of health conditions and to early death – hence the dramatic headlines about sitting being the new smoking and all that.

Spending too much time in one place is bad for mental health too. For example, it turns out that even one week of sedentary behavior lowers people’s life satisfaction.

Watching TVThis is an area where ADHD can work for us or against us depending on context. On one hand, as I wrote about last month, fidgeting might actually counteract some of sitting’s harmful effects. And in general, it does seem that the whole “H” thing might make ADHDers less inclined to sedentary behavior.

So that’s the good news.

The bad news comes in the form of a study of 913 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17. It turns out that among teenagers, anyway, people with ADHD tend to engage in more sedentary behavior than people without the disorder. But there’s a catch.

The catch is that this predisposition toward sedentary behavior seems to be entirely a result of putting in more screen time. Specifically, the study found that teens with ADHD engaged in more sedentary behavior that involved screens (computers, TVs, etc.) but didn’t engage in more sedentary behavior that didn’t involve screens.

If you think about it, that makes sense. People with ADHD are always in search of interesting, novel things to do. And they’re often avoiding boring tasks that require attention, cognitive effort and self-control. Put these together and it’s easy to see how your typical ADHDer might get drawn into binge-watching Netflix.

And in the end, there’s nothing inherently bad about screen time. The point of the study, though, is that as a group, people with ADHD tend to error on the side of putting in so much screen time that it leads them to engage in elevated levels of sedentary behavior. Apparently, we can’t sit still, except when we sit still too much.

So, as someone who has definitely been guilty of immoderate internet usage (I’m a blogger, after all), I’ll take this study as a reminder that keeping any kind of sedentary behavior in check us a good way to become healthier and happier.

Image: Flickr/Matthew

ADHD and Sedentary Behavior

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2017). ADHD and Sedentary Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Apr 2017
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