Children with Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park

Benefits studied:
Uses studied:
Place: Not provided


A formal walking program for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) finds that low-intensity walks in an urban park are associated with significantly greater improvement in cognitive function than similar walks in residential or downtown settings. The improvements measured are on par with improvements associated with the most typical medications prescribed for ADHD, and cognitive performance for participants after walking is comparable to the average performance of children who have not been diagnosed with ADHD.


This study is relevant for those making a case for the value of park-based programs for children, particularly those with ADHD. The information in this study would be compelling when making a case to teachers, school administrators and counselors, health care providers, and public health agencies.

The methods to collect and analyze data are careful, but the sample size (17) is relatively small. The results point in a promising direction, but a larger sample size would help bolster these findings. Also, because the study is based in an urban setting, it is unclear whether these findings would hold in a rural setting. It is also unclear whether the improvements in cognitive function are temporary or longer lasting.


The study location is not identified, but the authors are professors at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign so the study likely occurred in this area.

Trail Type

The study is based in an urban setting, including parks and residential areas.


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of walks in several controlled environments on treating ADHD symptoms in children. This study is unique in that it controls carefully for the type of environment in which children are walking.

This study is funded through grants from the U.S. Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.


  • Children had a significantly higher concentration score after walking in a park compared to walking in downtown or in a neighborhood.
  • The effect of walking in parks on cognitive performance for children with ADHD is comparable to the effects of two common ADHD medications.
  • The effect of walking in parks changes participants’ concentration scores such that they are comparable to the concentration scores for children who have not been diagnosed with ADHD.


The study includes 17 children ages 7 to 12 years old who had been diagnosed with ADHD by a health care provider. Twenty-five children were recruited for the study but eight were excluded due to procedural errors (four participants), not completing the study (two participants), noncompliance during all sessions (one participant), or particularly severe ADHD symptoms (one participant).

The study occurs in three settings: an urban park, a downtown area, and a residential area. All areas were flat terrain, relatively quiet, and with low levels of pedestrian traffic. Children went on 20-minute walks at a relaxed pace in each of the three settings on separate occasions.

An independent person who did not walk with the children administered several tests commonly used to assess concentration and impulse control among ADHD patients. The main results reported in this study were from the Digit Span Backwards (DSB) scores, used to assess concentration.


Faber Taylor, A. and Kuo, F.E., 2009. Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park. Journal of Attention Disorders 12(5): 402-409.