It's that time of year again....the kids are back to school and each school supply has been crossed off the list. Were you able to cross a bike off the school supply list? I know, it may sound odd, but there are many benefits to kids biking to school.
School is starting up again, so here are some reasons and advice on how to get your kids riding to and from school. Whether they are new to bike riding or they are already experienced riders, there are lots of benefits to cycle-commuting to school including some that may not be obvious: increased brain activity, increased memory retention, and increased attention span.
We understand it can be difficult to get out of the house in the morning before school, so we have enlisted expert advice from Doug Detwiller from Sprockids. Doug is a school teacher and he developed Sprockids as a self-esteem / anger management program to help engage students who were having difficulty functioning in the traditional classroom setting. The program involves teaching mountain biking skills and other life skills to kids and youth.
Why ride to school?
I'm sure you know the health benefits from riding and being active, but you may not know that kids who ride to school may actually have better concentration in class. A bike ride is a great way to start and end the school day.
Doug says that in starting his program, "the majority of the students were male, and many of them had a lot of penned up energy, anger, and emotions, making it very difficult for them to sit still and focus. The program helped give the kids confidence and an avenue to release energy and anger."
As a teacher, Doug experienced first hand how physical activity helped individuals prepare for the demands of the school day. He says, "my students who rode or walked to school arrived alert, calm, and mentally awake ready to learn." Just like us adults, young people get stressed and have all kinds of issues to deal with. Doug continues, "riding to school is a great stress release and it allows a physical activity to vent emotions."
Riding can also help kids sleep better at night, which also has direct benefits to their health, mental wellness, and ability to learn.
Riding to school can also help your child's teacher teach better as the kids may be more relaxed and ready to learn. There has also been growing research showing the direct impact of physical activity on academic performance. Kids who engaged in aerobic activities saw an increase in attention and memory retention, as well as mood and social engagement. Brain scans done at the University of Illinois show a dramatic increase in brain activity after 20 mins of exercise compared to 20 mins of sitting quietly. Research also shows an increase in neural brain activity in children who participated in an after school activity program compared to those kids who didn't. Research also suggests there is a decrease in neural brain activity when kids stop being active over time.
There are also the more practical and readily realized benefits to biking to school. In many cases, a bike trip is just as fast as driving the car in traffic and fighting the drop-off zone and/or parking lot crunch. Biking is also a way to get your kids outside to explore, and if you join them, you get your exercise, too, as well as some time to talk that isn't interfered with by a TV, video game, or mobile phone.
Tips to get kids riding
Some mornings it's hard to get the kids organized to eat breakfast, get dressed, and find their shoes. You might really want to get the kids riding, but can't figure out how logistically it can happen. Riding adds another bunch of 'things' you need to find, label with names and pack. It can be exhausting.
Doug agrees: "Getting kids organized in the morning can be a major challenge. As an adult I have my specific pack and gear that I ride with. These items are always organized together and hung up on a specific hanger ready to go at a moment's notice. Doing the same for one's kids makes the morning commute a lot easier."
If you need motivation for your kids to keep pedalling (especially if you live in a really hilly area, or some distance from the school), you could limit the number of times you ride per week so they don't get worn out. You could even drive part of the way to school and ride a shorter distance.
Come visit us at one of our stores and we'll help your kid roll on into the new school year!