Effect of game-based high-intensity interval training program on the executive function of children with ADHD: Protocol of a randomized controlled trial


Background Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common developmental disorder in childhood, with a 5%-6% worldwide prevalence. Children with ADHD often demonstrate impaired executive function, which is closely related to the development of the commonly observed behavioral problems such as inattention, impaired inhibition, and hyperactivity. The purpose of this study is to examine whether a game-based high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program can improve the executive function of children with ADHD, compared with a traditional structured aerobic exercise program and a non-treatment control group. Methods/Design A total of 42 children with ADHD will be recruited to participate in this three-arm school-based randomized controlled trial. An 8-week specially designed game-based HIIT (GameHIIT) program and a traditional game-based structured aerobic exercise (GameSAE) program will be delivered to those children randomly assigned to these two intervention groups, while the children in the control group will maintain their regular physical activity over the same period. A number of outcome measures including executive function, cerebral hemodynamic response, physical activity, physical fitness, and enjoyment and adherence to the intervention will be assessed for both groups at baseline (T0), immediately after the intervention period (T1), and after the follow-up period (T2). Discussion HIIT has recently emerged as a feasible and efficacious strategy for increasing physical health outcomes and cognitive function, including executive function, in healthy young people. However, research has yet to investigate whether the executive function of children with ADHD can be effectively enhanced through HIIT. If, as hypothesized, GameHIIT program improves outcomes for children with ADHD, the present research will inform the development of targeted exercise programs that can be more broadly used with this particular population.