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TS, OCD and Exercise

Packer-Hopke, L. and Motta, R. A Preliminary Investigation of the Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Childhood Tourette’s Syndrome and OCD, the Behavior Therapist, October 2014 Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) is typically diagnosed in childhood. Motor and vocal tics are the hallmark of TS, but there is often the comorbidity of OCD and ADHD. Studies have shown that 12 weeks of moderately intense exercise three to four times a week can reduce OCD symptoms drastically (as measured by a well-known Obsessive Compulsive Scale—the Y-BOCS).
That being said, what about those children who have both OCD and TS? OCD is an anxiety disorder, and tics can be exacerbated by anxiety. Aerobic activity decreases anxiety and OCD symptoms. Packer-Hopke and Motta looked to see what effect aerobic activity had on tics and OCD symptoms in children who suffer from TS, OCD, and Anxiety. They found that kids who were engaged in six weeks of moderately intense exercise twice a week had a significant reduction in symptoms of both the TS and OCD, and a moderate to large reduction in symptoms of anxiety.
It’s hard to live with TS, let alone its “friends and neighbors “OCD, ADHD, and Anxiety. Wouldn’t it be nice to let these kids, “just be kids”, and in the process help them reduce their symptoms? This isn’t the full answer, but it’s certainly a start.

Exercises of ADHD, OCD, and Tourette's

In my last post, I spoke about the link between lowering ADHD and OCD symptoms, as well as Tics, by increasing exercise. In their article, Packer-Hopke and Motta (2014) had children exercise for twenty minutes for six weeks, and saw a drastic reduction in their symptoms. When I talk to parents, they say, “Oh, my daughter plays soccer” or “He’s on a local baseball team”. These are great activities: kids get to interact with their peers in a structured and active way. But for the purposes of reducing their symptoms, I suggest something a little more active. In the article, children were asked to do a workout video, such as Tae Bo or Kickboxing. These videos combine an intensive cardio workout with fun for longer periods of time. Look for a video that appeals to your child, and that you would want to join in. Kids will be more likely to work out if you are doing it to!
Running is great exercise as well. Not the all-out sprints we used to do for the 200-yard dash, but steady, paced running. Think 1 mile. But start with something easy. There are many ‘couch to 5k’ programs out there that start out walking for 90 seconds and running for 30 seconds. They help you slowly build up your tolerance for running. And nowadays there are tons of fun family runs and 5K’s that you and your child can do together. Running/jogging can be done at any pace, anywhere. All you need is sneakers and sweatpants. I like music in my ears and watching the changing scenery. But a treadmill in front of the television will work just as well. Depending on your child’s tolerance for video games, Just Dance is a great alternative to running around outside. Fun dance songs with easy to follow choreography makes moving fun! The moves are as easy or as hard as you want them to be, and you don’t even realize you are exercising! You and your child will dance and laugh the entire time. The great thing about this is, the more you do it, the better you get. Exercising, especially with your child, is a great way to reduce symptoms of ADHD, OCD, and Tourette’s. It’ll also have the added bonus of helping build a stronger bond and fond memories between you. As with everything, talk to your doctors to make sure these activities are safe and appropriate for your child. If not, don’t despair!!! Call your local psychologist to get more information.
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