From the first toddler push-bike to learning to ride on a tricycle, to the independence of cycling to a friend’s house – kids and bikes have long gone hand in hand. But rather than an early childhood rite of passage, why not make sure cycling becomes a part of your child’s life? Not only does it provide a number of health benefits like improved concentration and mood control, it’s also great for their confidence.
Regular cycling helps with the development of leg muscles, core strength and general fitness. It improves stamina and cardiovascular functioning and sets your kids on an early path to a healthy heart. It also allows children to practice their fine and gross motor skills, co-ordination and balance, all skills that will help them as they grow into young adults.
Cycling also helps to improve children’s spatial awareness and navigational and observation skills. Whether they are dodging potholes, negotiating rough off-road terrain or finding their way to a friend’s house, they are learning and developing essential life skills along the way.
But the benefits are more than merely physical. Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise like riding stimulates neurons and improves the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. This in turn increases energy levels and cognitive functioning, including social and creative skills. The benefits are immediate. Research conducted in Denmark recently studied almost 20 000 children between the ages of 5 and 19. It concluded that cycling to school increases concentration during school hours, with the heightened concentration still evident four hours after the cycle to school.
Some have taken this correlation even further and the last few years have seen a number of studies around the benefits of cycling on children with ADHD. Research applying physical exercise as an alternative treatment for ADHD has consistently produced positive results.
In 2012, Specialized Bikes and RTSG Neuroscience spent five days a week for a month measuring the effects of cycling in two groups of children with ADHD (or displaying ADHD-like symptoms). The researchers concluded after the study that cycling is highly beneficial for children with ADHD, improving attention, mood, processing of information, emotional intelligence and cognitive performance.
Even more impressive is that cycling to school isn’t a chore for kids – 87% of the subjects continued with the cycling programme once the study had ended.
Cycling doesn’t need to be a skill kids learn and then tire of – it can become a daily way of life and lead to a better functioning body and mind, and a happier, healthier childhood. Whatever your children’s move, help them move more. Enter the children’s mountain bike race happening, part of the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg at www.947ridejoburg.co.za.