Preliminary evidence has supported the notion that mindful movement-based practices may offer benefits for self-regulation, particularly for vulnerable children. However, this evidence has principally stemmed from subjective assessments of behavioral change, leaving the underlying mechanisms undetermined. The present study aimed to investigate the efficacy of an in-school mindful movement intervention (MMI) for at-risk children within an urban public school for enhancing motor, cognitive, and emotional-behavioral regulation, including control of disruptive and inattentive behaviors characteristic of ADHD.
Participants included 38 (age 7–8 years) children who received twice weekly, in-school MMI, including a modified Tai Chi sequence, yoga and biomechanical warm-ups, imaginative play, and reflection. Parent and teacher ratings of disruptive behaviors, and objective measures of motor and cognitive control, were collected at baseline and after 5 months of MMI.
Significant improvements in teacher ratings of inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, oppositional, and other disruptive behaviors were observed. Significant improvements were also observed for objective measures of both cognitive control and motor control with particular reductions in both right and left dysrhythmia.
MMI was associated with improvements across objective and subjective assessments of motor, cognitive, and behavioral control. This proof-of-principle investigation provides preliminary support for the efficacy and feasibility of a novel MMI implemented as part of the school day in an urban school setting with 7–8-year-old children to augment development of at-risk youth.