Potential of smartphone technology to promote a more active lifestyle in ADHD

Given the strong link between physical activity and health, the promotion of physical activity is a major goal internationally, regardless of income, gender or ethnicity. However, intervention programs are usually conducted on specific cities or locations, excluding many potentially interested people who live geographically too far or those that for whatever reason cannot be physically present on the intervention place.


Can smartphones help to solve this problem, so that any person living anywhere, can benefit from an exercise-based intervention program?

The answer is YES, there is a great potential for improving lifestyle through mobile phones, and particularly for increasing physical activity using smartphone technology (Fanning et al. 2012). Smartphone technology is useful to disseminate information about lifestyle modification (e.g. physical activity) to the general population and to populations at risk (Liu et al. 2015). Mobile phones are becoming an essential part of the lifestyle in the World as indicates the growing percentage of worldwide population owning a smartphone (higher than 45%) and the fact that smartphones are carried all throughout the day (Ganesan et al. 2016). There is nowadays a wide range of apps and wearable devices are excellent in engaging people into activities, and in measuring and influencing behaviours in real time (Bort-Roig et al. 2014).

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It is well known that exercise has health benefits as a monotherapy or in combination in the treatment of depression and anxiety (Blumenthal et al. 2007, Dunn et al. 2005). In addition, exercise has also been shown to prevent or reduce weight gain and improve sleep (Sugaya et al. 2007, Youngstedt 2005). Although systematic studies on ADHD symptoms are still lacking, preliminary evidence suggests that exercise enhances the effect of medication, benefits multiple areas of ADHD dysfunction and does not provoke any adverse effects (Hoza et al. 2016). Exercise may be a prime intervention to target comorbidities of ADHD as obesity (closely related to low fitness, for more details read our post Low fitness and ADHD: An additional comorbidity?). Although it is widely described the benefit of exercise as an adjunctive therapy to ADHD, there is lack of research in the use of exercise as a sole intervention (Hoza et al. 2016).

Under the umbrella of the CoCA project, a pilot clinical trial based on an exercise m-health approach in ADHD young patients will provide new insights about the potential of smartphones to improve ADHD symptomatology and its comorbidities, such as obesity and depression.


Antonio Martínez-Nicolás, Adrià Muntaner-Mas, and Francisco B. Ortega

The PROFITH research group: http://profith.ugr.es/

University of Granada, Spain.



Blumenthal JA, Babyak MA, Doraiswamy PM, Watkins L, Hoffman BM, Barbour KA, Herman S, Craighead WE, Brosse AL, Waugh R, Hinderliter A, Sherwood A. (2007). Exercise and pharmacotherapy in the treatment of major depressive disorder. Psychosomatic Medicine 69(7): 587-596.

Bort-Roig J, Gilson ND, Puig-Ribera A, Contreras RS, Trost SG. (2014). Measuring and influencing physical activity with smartphone technology: A systematic review. Sports Medicine 44: 671-686.

Dunn AL, Trivedi MH, Kampert JB, Clark CG, Chambliss HO. (2005). Exercise treatment for depression: Efficacy and dose response. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 28(1): 1-8.

Fanning J, Mullen SP, McAuley E. (2012). Increasing physical activity with mobile devices: A meta-analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research 14(6): e161.

Ganesan AN, Louise J, Horsfall M, Bilsborough SA, Hendriks J, McGavigan AD, Selvanayagam JB, Chew DP. (2016). International Mobile-Health intervention on physical activity, sitting, and weight: The Stepathlon cardiovascular health study. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 67(21): 2453-2463.

Hoza B, Martin CP, Pirog A, Shoulberg EK. (2016). Using physical activity to manage ADHD symptoms: The state of the evidence. Current Psychiatry Reports 18: 113.

Liu F, Kong X, Cao J, Chen S, Li C, Huang J, Gu D, Kelly TN. (2015). Mobile phone intervention and weight loss among overweight and obese adults: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. American Journal of Epidemiology. 181(5): 337-348.

Sugaya K, Nishijima S, Owan T, Oda M, Miyazato M, Ogawa Y. (2007). Effects of walking exercise on nocturia in the elderly. Biomedical Research 28(2): 101-105.

Youngstedt SD. (2005). Effects of exercise on sleep. Clinics in Sports Medicine 24(2): 355-365.

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