TMACOG: Bike exercise benefits kids and adultsWritten by Mary Pat McCarthy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Turning the wheels on a bike helps children keep the wheels turning in the classroom. A study published in Denmark in November 2012 looked at school children and the effects of eating breakfast or riding a bike to school. Both improved concentration, but researchers were surprised to find that the improvement was more pronounced for those boys and girls who had ridden a bicycle.
The survey looked at 20,000 children between the ages of 5 and 19. The kids who rode to school were compared to the kids who were driven by their parents. The ones who exercised did better on puzzles or other work requiring concentration. Researchers noted that the effect of exercise lasted up to four hours after they arrived at school. Researcher and co-author of the report Niels Egelund said, “As a third grade pupil, if you exercise and bike to school, your ability to concentrate increases to the equivalent of someone a half a year further in their studies.” In the U.S., government studies say that as of 2009, only 13 percent of children walked or bicycled to school. In 1969, half of children walked or biked.
Most children attend grade or high school within a few miles of their home. While some have impediments to walking or cycling, many could find a safe route to school through residential neighborhoods. All area schools have bike racks where bicycles can be secured and most elementary schools have outdoor safety guards.
Toledo-area bike advocate Keith Webb says, “As a child, learning to ride a bicycle provided our first taste of independence and freedom. I experience that feeling every time I ride my bike, releasing the stress of daily life – I love it!” Webb is a member of TMACOG’s Pedestrian and Bikeways Committee and involved in local bike planning. He uses a bicycle for transportation whenever he can, and that is most of the time. He cites statistics from the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey: 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle. “Riding a bicycle is practical transportation,” he says.
Dorothy Meyer is a Certified Nurse Practitioner and Toledo-area group exercise leader with an advanced degree in applied exercise physiology. She says that bicycling promotes cardiovascular fitness and is excellent exercise. “Bicycling is liberating no matter what body type you have,” she said. “Many long-time runners are thin and light because it’s hard to move mass on foot. But using a bicycle relies more on strength and balance than running. And because cycling is low-impact, people can do it longer with fewer injuries.”
Meyer sees benefits to biking indoors or out. “Everyone loves being outside on a bike and the communal part of a bike ride with a friend is important to enjoying your exercise. But during the winter, or if you have balance or vision problems, you can still get a lot of value on a stationary bike.”
Recent research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that bicycle commuting is one of the most effective ways to promote general health for adults. “Commuting is a relevant health behavior even for those who are sufficiently active in their leisure time,” said the lead author of the study, Australian epidemiologist Takemi Sugiyama. Active transportation – walking or riding – adds regular exercise into every weekday and replaces sedentary driving.
To start commuting by bike, local cyclists recommend that you scout out the ride. Look for signed bike routes and paths, and for less busy roads that may parallel where you would normally drive. To figure how much time your commute will take on a bike, estimate that you will be traveling about nine miles per hour. Consider incorporating public transit. Ride a bike to work and take the bus home. On the next morning, reverse your commute and ride home. Or ride a bike to the bus. All TARTA buses have easy-to-use bike racks on the front of each bus. May is the month to explore the area’s bicycle facilities! It’s national Bike Month and local activities are posted at www.tmacog.org/bikemonth.htm.
- Wearetraffic.org is a local resource where you can find local biking information and help for learning how to ride with traffic.
- The League of American Bicyclists provides valuable tips on its website: www.bikeleague.org.
- Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) is the regional transportation planning organization including bicycle and pedestrian transportation. The TMACOG website (tmacog.org) has maps of regional bike facilities, information on laws, and many links to additional resources.
- The Ohio Department of Transportation website has more information including the free booklet “Cycling Smarter Guide.”
Mary Pat McCarthy is with Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG).