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Cycling Is My Ritalin Too… Though I Can’t Be Sure – I Never Took It.


February 2013

I bumped into a fantastic article at Bicycling Magazine’s website entitled, “Riding Is My Ritalin:  ADHD and Cycling“.  For me, it’s one of those articles that makes everything make sense.  The person at the center of the article, Adam Leibovitz, seems to have a much stronger case of ADD (or ADHD) than I do, but my results mirror his in many ways though finding cycling took me a lot longer that it did Adam.

Some of the more interesting points in the article center around replacing (or lowering the dosage of) Ritalin with cycling, running, swimming or all three.  The thought is that the cause of ADHD has to do with a lack of neural transmitters in the brain.  I’ll give you two guesses but you’ll only need one:  What, other than Ritalin or Adderall, boosts those transmitters?

So many things click into place for me after reading this article.  For instance, while I show up early to the office almost every morning, I get more done in the three or four hours after lunch than the six or seven hours before – all winter long I’ve been riding on the trainer for 30 minutes to an hour before lunch…  I am more focused and can perform multiple tasks in rapid succession after a short workout and I’m vastly more focused after the longer workouts.

The linked article is important in many ways.  Not only does it detail perfectly how strenuous aerobic exercise can significantly diminish the need for narcotic solutions (Ritalin is a small dose of Meth’s cousin to put it simply), the article uses Adam’s case as an example of how exercise can replace, in many cases, the need for drugs altogether.  This is a huge issue for boys and men as we are diagnosed with the problem 3-1 over girls.  I have my own hypothesis as to why this is the case – boys are more rambunctious as kids, that’s how we’re wired.  Also, the vast majority of grade school teachers are women who couldn’t possibly understand why we boys act the way we do – they can know, but there is a cavernous difference between knowing and understanding.  This truth notwithstanding, I won’t be holding my breath for a new Title to the public school system which would level the playing field and help boys to excel.  After all, we already rule everything and are, as a matter of fact, the root of all evil anyway.

All joking aside, the article also delves into the reasons behind the fact that little research is being done into just how much exercise can impact kids diagnosed with ADHD.  First of all, and this is made clear if you pay attention, this is not some corporate conspiracy.  Drug companies fund the bulk of the research in this field, why would they pay to prove their medications aren’t needed?  Only a fool with a company that will soon be facing bankruptcy would do that.  The bicycling industry could chip in some cash for the research, but the demographic benefit would be pretty small.  As far as I’m concerned, it really isn’t all that necessary either – what is necessary is that the message that drugging little boys and girls into compliance doesn’t have to be the answer be shouted from the rooftops and become general knowledge.

In fact two schools, according to the article, have been experimenting for some time, with great success, starting the kid’s day with an early morning workout – the kid’s test scores, not surprisingly, improved significantly – and they’re turning out the fittest kids in the country at the same time.  Of course, they receive little publicity.  What a shame.

So please, for the sake of our kids and your own sanity, read that article and take it to heart.  Then put your butt on a bike and reap the whirlwind of benefits – and pass on your success story so others can benefit as well.


  1. After not being on a bike for 20 years, I got asked to join a group for a trail ride of about 30K. I said what the heck and went out and bought a used mountain bike. Well that 30K ride turned into a 60K ride that almost killed me phyiscally but mentally I was alive. I have since sold that old used mountain bike and have purchase two bikes Trek DS 8.3 and a Cervelo S2. On the days that I ride either of these bikes into work, I get so much more done in a short period of time. I find that when I ride my bike to the gym, that I have a much better workout and that I tend not to drag my ass from exercise to exercise. I guess we all suffer from some level ADHD or ADD so exercising the body also exercises the mind.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I think that you make a great point there – You ever notice whenever they talk about ADD the science isn’t complete and more studies need to be done? What if ADD is just a sliver off normal? What if we’re all like that to an extent? I think you’re onto something there brother.

  2. Chatter says:

    I like you had a wake up moment several years ago after a few years with my wife. You learn allot when you live with someone who interacts with you daily. After realizing this was the issue my wife and I addressed our issues with ADD in mind and things got better. One of the things that helped was coffee. My wife discovered I was calmer and more focused when drinking coffee and less everywhere. We also discovered a cup before bed and I slept the best night of sleep! Increased physical activity has been a two edged sword though. I am now more hyper than I ever used to be and resemble more ADHD instead of type 2 ADD.

    • bgddyjim says:

      The coffee/caffeine trick – I love it! I am surprised that you’re more disjointed with the fitness… I have more energy but it doesn’t manifest negatively.

      • Chatter says:

        It took me a while to realize that she was using coffee to calm me down. One day we were out and supposedly my head was racing so she immediately told me to go get coffee. I finally realized what she was doing. My brother is hyper ADD. Being over weight and lethargic might have made me seem more innatentative ADD (type2), possibly. My wife claims that I now behave more similar to my brother in regards to being hyper, so maybe it was hidden under my laziness? I will say that it took having three sports to train for to get me really focused on the gym.

      • bgddyjim says:

        I learned the caffeine trick on my own – first with Coke. Unfortunately four or five 2-liters a week really hurt the waistline. I didn’t realize I was self-medicating until I happened on a few articles on the subject about four years ago. Two years ago I gave up the Coke to lose those last stubborn five pounds and went exclusively with coffee. Whatever works my friend, it’s all good.

  3. Who is to say what is normal? All of our bodies are different and so our brains and minds are as well. Some of have overly active minds while others are more dornmat. I think when we bike, it engages the brain more because we have to keep our balance and we are more focused on all of our biking actions. My nephew has autism and apparently people with autism are not able to ride a bike. Well after many falls and great effort he is able to ride a bike but even better his level of autism is getting better.

  4. Daniel Weise says:

    Just found this post as I’m perusing your blog to date. My Grandson is medicated at school and when home with his father, but when he comes to visit, no medication. We do try to get him active, riding, swimming, etc. and I don’t think he really needs the medication except as a means to control him so his father and the teachers don’t have to be bothered. I’m going to send him this article and maybe we can get him off the drugs!

    Thank you!

    • bgddyjim says:

      That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about something I’ve written. I’m printing this off and framing it to go in my office. Thank you for making my day and good luck with the little guy. My mom had the patience of a saint, sounds like you two would get along. Good luck.

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