9 reasons why bikes are the best medicine for your child
Bike riding is a great way to get your children excited about outdoor exercise from an early age. And the best part is that this fun activity just so happens to give kids' physical and mental health a welcome boost too. Here's our list of nine reasons why your child should ride a bike...
1. Cycling keeps you in shape
TVs, smartphones and game consoles are major competitors for cycling and, more importantly, they stop our children from getting up and moving. It's no secret that overeating and too little physical activity can lead to overweight or obese children and cause all kinds of health problems. Riding a bike can effectively counteract this problem, with the movement stimulating the metabolism, using up energy and burning fat.
2. Cycling is jogging for the brain
Cycling is a great way to keep your child's mind active as well as their body. Wondering how that works? Well, your child's heart will beat faster and pump more blood into their body as they exercise. All that blood will be transporting more oxygen and vital nutrients to the brain, which will help your child concentrate, learn and organise their thoughts.
But that's not all! Cycling acts as a kind of fertiliser for the brain since physical activity stimulates the production of neutrophins, or signalling proteins, in the hippocampus, which promote the formation of new nerve cells and new connections between nerve cells. This allows the nerve cells to communicate better with each other, improving your child's brain function.
3. Cycling prevents lifestyle diseases
Cycling works wonders against no end of health problems like back pain, cardiovascular conditions and diabetes.
Children who take their bike out for a regular spin train their legs and their heart alike, with moderate training keeping the heart muscle strong and healthy. Exercise also strengthens the blood vessels and improves circulation, helping the heart to pump more blood through the body with every heartbeat as the heart rate decreases.
Cycling has also proven to be an effective way of lowering blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of your child developing type 2 diabetes at a young age.
4. Cycling boosts the immune system
Children who regularly go out on their bikes have a stronger immune system. That's down to the fact that your child's body produces more, stronger white blood cells and other substances in the blood when they exercise. This helps their immune system to fight off viruses and other pathogens.
Another positive side effect is that your child will absorb loads of light through their skin and eyes when out in the fresh air on their bike. This boosts vitamin D production, which in turn strengthens the immune system. What's more, light has a positive effect on hormonal balance and thus on mood. On a bright sunny day, light has an illuminance of 100,000 lux, while interior lighting offers only about 400 lux. Even on an overcast day, you can still absorb about 5,000 lux outside. So get your child out on their bike and tanking up on light!
5. Cycling promotes muscle growth
After just ten minutes of cycling, nearly every muscle in your child's body is strengthened and well supplied with blood.
- Pedalling trains the leg and buttock muscles.
- Steering gets the arm, back and chest muscles involved.
- The abdominal muscles and small, deep back muscles around the spine are activated to keep your child balanced.
With so many muscle groups working together in perfect harmony, cycling is the ideal activity for counteracting a lack of exercise and avoiding back problems. If you're interested in finding out more about why cycling is so good for your child's back and posture, check out this blog post.
6. Cycling strengthens the joints
Your child's joints will thank them for cycling! First and foremost, this form of exercise doesn't put too much pressure on the joints because the bike carries most of the body's weight. On top of that, the regular, cyclical leg movements also make sure that the important nutrients in the food your child eats make it to the cartilage in their joints.
7. Cycling makes you happy
We've all seen this in action. :-) Along with the many positive effects on your child's physical health, cycling is actually good for their psyche as well. Spending time on their bike in the great outdoors gives children a chance to experience the beauty of nature and really take in their surroundings. As they breathe in the smells of the seasons changing, the feeling of the cool wind in their hair or the warm sun on their skin releases happy hormones, which make their body feel better and put them in a good mood.
8. Cycling improves motor skills and sharpens the senses
Motor and sensory development in the early years of your child's life is an essential foundation for so many other skills. Cycling is a great way to enhance motor skills and sensory awareness on many levels.
- Your child can learn how to balance, steer and brake just from riding a balance bike. When they progress to a pedal bike, they'll pick up pedalling and master the hand brakes (if they haven't already). Once your child is a confident little cyclist, it'll be time to introduce the gears and teach them to ride in traffic.
- Children discover and explore the world through their senses– that is, by absorbing stimuli from the environment through various sensory channels and processing that input in the brain. Cycling promotes your child's sensory perception in so many ways. In addition to developing a good sense of balance, they will learn to actively listen out for noises and visually identify the source of what they can hear. Practising these skills will help them improve their ability to assess traffic hazards. During bike rides, children can discover everything nature has to offer.
9. Cycling encourages independence and creates a connection
Your child just needs to hop on the saddle and get out into the world! Whether they want to explore the woods, zoom through the park or travel to school, your child will be able to get so much further by bike than on foot at a young age. Being mobile gives your child a huge amount of independence and personal freedom. Just think of all the adventures that await!
It's important for a child's social and emotional development that they share profound experiences with others. Emotions are always being triggered by little moments in sport. For example, cycling will bring your child the joy of their first successful attempt at pedalling and the frustration of falling off their bike. Sport brings people together too – this is not a novel idea and it applies to all ages. Splashing through puddles and speeding up little ramps with the people they love is the stuff magical moments are made of in your child's eyes. And it's those little things that are at the heart of strong family units and forever friendships.