RESEARCH & RESOURCES
OBESITY / HEALTHY WEIGHT
We know that riding a bike is a healthy activity, but when kids master biking early in life, they tend to stick with it their whole life. This means that today’s children and tomorrow’s adults live happier, healthier lives.
“Experts said the results point to a critical “window” in early childhood – between the ages of 2 and 5 or 6 years old – that can set the state for persistent obesity.”
“The more children played outdoors, the more their BMI decreased over the preschool year and less likely they were to be obese. The difference between high levels and low levels of outdoor play corresponded to 0.81 BMI points and a 42% reduction in children’s risk of obesity. Sixty minutes was the “tipping point” for the association between outdoor play time and improvements in children’s BMI. These associations were also stronger among children who were obese at the start of the year, less active at home, and living in unsafe neighborhoods.”
“Overweight adolescents who participate in bicycling 3 to 4 days per week are 85% more likely to become normal-weight adults.”
“Children who begin biking or walking to school at an early age (grade 1) are more likely to stay a healthy weight during their early school years.”
INACTIVITY / SCREEN TIME
Mental health is just as important as physical health. As a nation, we’re seeing a drastic increase in a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Children who exercise and bike regularly are more likely to decrease their screen time, which can enhance their social and emotional well-being.
“Modern life is sedentary. Kids spent more time playing with electronic devices than actively playing outside. Kids who watch TV more than 4 hours a day are more likely to be overweight compared to kids who watch 2 hours or less… Many kids don’t get enough physical activity… Kids ages 2 to 5 years should play actively several times a day.”
“Kids and teens age 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. The new warning from the AHA recommends parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours per day. For younger children, age 2 to 5, the recommended limit is one hour per day.”
“Research has linked screen time with an increased amount of sedentary behavior in children and teens. While there is no longterm evidence yet to link screen time to an increased risk of health conditions like cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol, there is mounting evidence that it is associated with obesity, cardiologist and CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula explains.”
Eighty-one percent of teens in a new national survey by the Pew Research Center said they feel more connected to their friends and associated social media use with feeling included. But in a month-long experiment at the University of Pennsylvania, college students who limited themselves to just 30 minutes a day on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat reported significant decreases in loneliness and depression.
The study also found that children who have more than two hours of screen time a day got lower scores on tests focused on thinking and language skills.
The first findings from the study show as little as 2 hours of screen time can be detrimental.
According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 43% of children under 2 years of age watch television daily and almost one in five (18%) watch videos or DVDs every day. The majority of parents (88%) of these children under the age of 2 watch television every day, and claim to be in the same room as their children while watching TV, either all or part of the time.
Broadly speaking, it has been found that excess exposure to television has been associated with a wide variety of negative effects on health. These effects range from an increase in violence and aggressive behavior, distorted sexual images, body image problems, and obesity or nutritional problems.
“Regular exercise reduces depression and improves self esteem in overweight children”
“(These kids) spend more time online and less time with their friends in person. They also spend less time sleeping.”
BENEFITS OF PLAY / SOCIALIZATION
Children who learn how to ride a bike early have more opportunities to ride with friends and family, which means more socialization. Play serves as an integral part of social, emotional, and physical development. Not only does play boost confidence, it fosters friendships with other children.
“Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (i.e., the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.”
“Toddlers with plenty of chances to run, jump and climb grow into kids who are physically confident and more likely to be active and healthy adults.””
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY LINKED TO ACADEMIC PERFORMACE
Bicycling provides a tremendous cardiovascular workout, building young muscles, strengthening kids’ immune systems, sharpening their minds, and elevating their academic performance.
“An adequate PE curriculum can help create healthy bodies and eager-to-learn minds. Adequate physical education doesn’t stop there; it sets children up for a healthy adulthood, perpetuating the cycle of well-being for generations to come.”
“The overall findings continue to be positive; as PA increases, cognitive function and academic achievement generally increase.”
“Eight of the nine studies found positive associations between classroom-based physical activity and indicators of cognitive skills and attitudes, academic behavior, and academic achievement; none of the studies found negative associations.”
“There is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores.”
“Participating in physical activity was positively related to outcomes including academic achievement, academic behaviors, and indicators of cognitive skills and attitudes, such as concentration, memory, self-esteem, and verbal skills.”
“For children, schools provide the most accessible, and sometimes only, opportunity for regular, structured play, physical education, physical activity and sports. This is particularly true of those with financial and/or transportation challenges, and those with parents who lack the time to enable their children’s participation due to work commitments. In addition, the institution of school—and its messages, expectations and the availability of positive physical activity options—is also enormously influential during a child’s primary and school years. That said, schools exert the most positive influence when the school as a whole works to encourage participation.”
“Inadequate levels of social and emotional functioning are increasingly recognized as central to many public health problems (e.g., substance abuse, obesity, violence). Just as researchers study how academic achievement in a population can lift groups out of poverty, public health scientists are now studying how these noncognitive factors affect health and wellness across domains.”
When children can ride a bike and ride that bike to school, we create a culture that changes the way we look at transportation. Gone are the days of dangerously clogged and overused school drop-off zones. When children grow into adults (our future community leaders and city planners) and have had bike riding as an inherent part of their lives, they begin changing the way we utilize transportation. They will design cities and roads to be more bike friendly. They will write and pass laws to make riding a bike through the city safer. They will truly change the world for the better.
“If more people were able to safely ride a bike to school and work, then the government could potentially save millions in pounds of lost revenue due to a whole range of inactivity-related health conditions.”