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Roller Skating For Dopamine – Transforming ADHD Management

Rosie is a senior lecturer in interior architecture and design and founder of 'ADHD Focus', a business which specialises in talks raising awareness about ADHD, coaching and creating e books and video courses, for students, parents and individuals with ADHD.

Executive Contributor Rosie Elvin

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often misunderstood and misrepresented, is far more than just a fleeting distraction or occasional forgetfulness; it's a complex neurological condition that shapes the very fabric of daily life for millions worldwide.

Two friends walking bringing roller skates on shoulder

In this article, we explore the world of dopamine, ADHD, the liberation of roller-skating, and how this activity can alleviate symptoms. We examine the science behind ADHD, the crucial role of dopamine, and how roller-skating goes beyond recreation to offer hope and balance for those struggling with distraction.

ADHD affects a significant percentage of the global population and is often misunderstood. There has been a notable increase in awareness surrounding ADHD and neurodiversity in recent years, especially concerning its manifestation in adulthood and women. My journey with ADHD mirrors that of many women; despite not receiving a diagnosis until the age of 42, my symptoms differ greatly from common perceptions.


ADHD can be serious, especially if undiagnosed, but with a proper diagnosis and understanding of its characteristics, individuals can adapt and learn to manage their symptoms. This knowledge enables them to lead healthier lives and often thrive by making the most of their condition. ADHD Awareness workshops such as those provided by ADHD Focus can help workplaces and individuals understand the nuisances of the condition and help support friends, families and coworkers.

Understanding ADHD

ADHD is characterised by a range of symptoms grouped into three main categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While everyone may occasionally exhibit some of these behaviours, individuals with ADHD experience these symptoms more severely and persistently, significantly interfering with daily life.


There is research to suggest that ADHD is linked to variations in the functioning of the brain's neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine. Dopamine is essential for regulating attention, motivation, and reward. With ADHD, dopamine levels are often dysregulated, leading to challenges in maintaining attention and motivation. We seek to increase our dopamine levels naturally and exercise can be a great way to achieve this!


ADHD and the core symptoms

Inattention can manifest as difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or activities, frequent careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities, and often seeming not to listen when spoken to directly. It can also involve trouble organising tasks and activities, avoidance or reluctance to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort, frequently losing items necessary for tasks and activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, keys), being easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli, and forgetfulness in daily activities. I used to leave objects lying around at school, which was perceived by teachers as me not caring about my work. If my teachers had known to ask the right questions, they could have found out the reasons for my behaviour, instead of making assumptions.


The narrative around people with ADHD lacking focus is interesting, in some situations, yes, we can lack focus, but this is very task-specific, we don’t lack focus if we’re interested in a task, and this is where we can ‘hyper-focus.’ Hyperfocus is an intense, laser-like concentration on a specific task or activity that can make an individual lose track of time and surroundings.


We can see signs of hyperactivity exhibited through fidgeting with hands or feet, squirming in the seat, and an inability to stay seated in situations where it is expected. It may also include running or climbing in inappropriate situations (which in adolescents or adults may present as restlessness), difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly, often appearing to be "on the go" or acting as if "driven by a motor," and excessive talking.


However, this side of things may not resonate with a lot of people, and they choose to dismiss the idea of ADHD because they don’t feel physically hyperactive. What I didn’t realise before I was diagnosed, was that hyperactivity can also be internalised and manifest as racing thoughts and magnifying small issues, does this sound familiar?


Impulsivity can be characterised by actions such as blurting out answers before questions have been completed, difficulty waiting in turn, and interrupting or intruding on others (in conversations or games for example).


These core symptoms can vary widely among individuals and can change with age. In some people, hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms may decrease over time, but challenges with inattention often persist. ADHD characteristics can also be responsible for all our brilliant traits a huge percentage of elite athletes have ADHD.

Dopamine and ADHD

For a long time, I wasn't aware of the connection between ADHD and dopamine. Online tests offered limited insights, simply explaining difficult behaviours. However, they fail to highlight the positive traits associated with ADHD, such as entrepreneurial spirit, networking skills and creativity, which can lead to fulfilling careers.


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is crucial for reward, motivation, and attention, and there are theories to suggest that it plays a significant role in the development and symptoms of ADHD. Individuals with ADHD often have lower levels of dopamine in key areas of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions like decision-making, impulse control, and focus. This can lead to the characteristic symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Roller-skating, and other activities such as running, and climbing are activities which give me a dopamine boost, which in turn makes me feel more regulated.

Dopamine-seeking behaviour and ADHD

Boosting dopamine levels through healthy habits can help improve attention, motivation, and overall mood, making it easier to manage ADHD symptoms.

Dopamine-seeking behaviour is common with ADHD to compensate for the brain's dopamine deficiency. Because dopamine is integral to the brain's reward system, people with ADHD often seek activities that provide immediate gratification or high stimulation to boost their dopamine levels. This can manifest as a preference for high-risk activities and frequent novelty-seeking activities. This impulsive behaviour might lead to purchasing a lot of unnecessary equipment for these activities without trying the activities out first.


Difficulties with focusing on specific tasks are also linked to dopamine levels. This connection is particularly evident when individuals with ADHD struggle to stay engaged with mundane activities that do not provide immediate rewards. The lack of immediate gratification makes it harder for them to maintain attention and effort, as their brain's reward system, does not receive the necessary stimulation to sustain interest in these tasks. Consequently, their ability to focus and persist through less stimulating activities is significantly compromised.


What are the benefits of physical activity for ADHD? 

Physical activity offers numerous benefits for individuals with ADHD. Regular exercise has been shown to improve concentration, reduce impulsivity, and enhance mood, which are key challenges associated with ADHD. Engaging in physical activity stimulates the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine. Exercise can also help reduce anxiety and stress, which commonly comes hand in hand with ADHD. Physical activities, especially those involving structured routines and goal setting, promote better discipline and organisation skills.


Dr Kirsten McKenzie, a Senior Lecturer, Cognitive Neuroscientist and roller skater says “I love the way that Roller-skating can induce the flow state so quickly for me; to be so completely absorbed in what I am doing, and so present in the moment. Then afterwards I feel so much happier and relaxed, no matter what else is going on in my life. It really helps with the symptoms of my ADHD and sometimes it almost feels as though I can feel the dopamine just flowing through me!”


How to get into roller skating?

Top tips

Getting into roller skating can be exciting and rewarding. I started roller-skating when I was about four years old with skates that strapped to my shoes (in the 80s!) and after I went to university, I didn’t think to pick it up again for a long time, and for my 40th birthday my husband gave me a pair of roller skates and I have regained my love for it! I recommend trying out skating at a disco or similar where you can hire skates before you purchase all the equipment (there’s a lot of great stuff to buy!)


I love watching Instagram videos and online tutorials for tips, a great YouTube channel to watch for skating tutorials is ‘skatelisa.’ Lisa is an old-school skater who’s been skating for 40 years and has immense passion for the activity. Lisa says “Roller skating helps me focus my energy and random thoughts into a mind, and body relaxing flow. It has helped me with my excessive energy and thoughts that come with ADHD.”

I don’t think it’s ever too late to start roller skating, especially if you did it as a child and have fond memories. If it’s your first time, you could find a roller disco where you can hire skates and give it a go. If you have your own skates, you can start by practicing in a safe, open space like a driveway or empty car park where you have plenty of room to move around without obstacles.


Most importantly, be patient with yourself and enjoy the process of learning this super fun activity!


If you’re looking for some support on ADHD management, you can download your free guide here, packed full of information from experts on sleep, exercise, movement, mental health and more! Designed for students transitioning to university or at university, the expert tips are great for all!


Follow me on Instagram, and LinkedIn, or visit my website for more info!

Read more from Rosie Elvin


Rosie Elvin, Coaching, Workplace Training

Rosie is dedicated to rasing awareness and supporting individuals with ADHD across various sectors. She also conducts talks and workshops for university staff equipping them with essential tools to support students and saff with ADHD. Additionally, Rosie offers online courses to parents and carers to empower them to provide effective support to students with ADHD during their university experience. Rosie emphasises that ADHD doesn't define a person and believes in empowering individuals to achieve success. As an ADHD coach, she provides insights and identifies resources to help individuals thrive.



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