Did you know that riding a bike for an hour has a powerful effect on your ability to pay attention? So whether you’re studying for midterms or preparing for a long day of meetings, getting out to ride will show you brain-boosting potential firsthand.
A Danish study in 2012 showed that kids concentrate better after biking or walking to school. The study, titled “Mass Experiment 2012,” looked at the links between concentration, diet and exercise. The survey looked at nearly 20,000 Danish kids between the ages of 5 and 19. It found that kids who cycled or walked to school, rather than traveling by car or public transportation, performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration, such as solving puzzles, and that the effects lasted for up to four hours after they got to school. The study showed positive cognitive benefits from cycling, and not just for school-age kids. And yet these connections are only beginning to be adequately explored.
More recently, Specialized Bicycle Components founder and CEO, Mike Sinyard, who has long dealt with the effects of ADHD in his own life, noticed that those symptoms seemed to dissipate after returning from a ride. He also saw the positive benefits that riding has had on his son, Anthony, who also suffered from ADHD. In trying to better understand ADHD and bicycling’s apparent positive effects, he decided to explore more of the science behind riding’s impact on the brain and began to assemble a team to study ADHD through evidence-based youth cycling programs.
The Specialized Foundation funded research to investigate how aerobic exercise, specifically cycling, can become an integral part of a comprehensive treatment program for kids with ADHD. Through its pilot programs, researchers have been finding encouraging results. Here are some of the processes and observations:
With research partners in the field, several six-week pilot programs were established in middle schools across the United States. Indications are that kids’ brains are better prepared for learning when they take part in cycling activities, improving many of the core deficits of ADHD, like attention, mood and behavior. And these programs have also shown improvements in academic performance as measured by standardized test scores.
Furthermore, bike riding has shown itself to be an ideal conduit to these positive effects, as it’s easily accessible for kids with varying degrees of fitness. So this means that students are able to participate at a higher rate than with other forms of aerobic activity. Beyond early findings of improved attention, riding also develops physical fitness in kids. Researchers found a significant reduction in participants’ Body Mass Index, or BMI, on average in their study.
The evidence is stacking up that bicycling and active lifestyles can have a positive impact on mood, self- esteem, attention and academic performance, as well as general fitness. Nearly six million children in the United States have been diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. While many parents worry about the medications often prescribed to help their kids, what they might not know is that help may be as close as those bikes sitting in the garage.