Get on your Bike!
A third (34%) of primary school children have never learnt to ride a bike!!! This was the dramatic findings of a recent survey that the Keep Britain Tidy campaign commissioned and caught my attention. I read this bold statement with sadness. From my first hand experiences as a parent and a cycling instructor I know what cycling offers my daughter and other children.
Cycling is like swimming if you don't master the basic skill access to the activity is impossible. Most people can make a good go at taking part in an impromptu football match at the beach minus any training. However without the capacity to cycle even that once a year annual bike ride on a family holiday is completely inaccessible.
However cycling is so much more important to children than just an annual event and the consequences for not learning early on in life are significant. Cycling is brilliant for helping to make kids confident and fit. The health benefits of cycling are incredibly important with current estimates stating that almost a third of children are overweight or obese in this country. A bike ride helps them get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Once you've invested in bikes and some basic kit, it costs very little but provides so many benefits. One of the easiest ways to get children to cycle regularly is through what Cycling Uk describes as active travel. e.g cycling to school. A study by Sustrans claims that “Many teachers report that kids who walk and cycle to school are more alert and ready to learn than those who arrive by car”
In addition the link between physical activity and boosting your positive mental attitude, is establish knowledge these days. So that ride to school can also help manage the stress factors that modern childhood can throw at our kids. The sheer enjoyment of riding a bike can be enough to ease the mind of some of its demons and reduce the risk of depression and mental illness. In addition it might also get you more sleep at night. Brilliant stuff if your child is a rubbish sleeper like mine.
Cycling has been shown to help reduce levels of stress hormones in the body that may block regenerative, and deep sleep. It also can positively effect helpful hormones in the brain which can improve your sleep cycles.However it is the freedom, adventure and independence that cycling affords that in my opinion holds it high up there in the important skills that kids need to master. Children grow up incredibly fast and lots of everyday life isn’t really that memorable. But adventures offer new situations, people and places to encounter. It creates lots of strong, shared memories. I am pretty sure our family won’t forget the time we saw the deer whilst cycling in the New Forest in January this year, or the sense of achievement when we cycled up the Buttertubs and camped out for the night . These memories of our adventures will make sure its hard to forget what happened when our daughter and her friends were growing up.
So despite such positive benefits the study, by Keep Britain Tidy, suggests riding your bike amongst other outdoor skills traditionally learned by children could be dying out. But why?
There are number of reasons:
- Busy Lifestyles: Time-pressed parents are not able to take families to parks or have the opportunity to practice the skill
- Urban environments with little practice area.
- Concerns regarding safety and traffic
- Poor quality bikes making it challenging and unenjoyable to ride.
So do we have all the answers to help kids get out on their bikes and outside? probably not but we do have some good suggestions.
- Start early. In the Netherlands it is common practice to start children learning to ride as soon as they can walk.
- Ditch the stabilisers and use the balance bike method. Establishing good balance and bike handling skills prior to pedalling is proved to be much more successful at teaching young children to ride. Perhaps encourage your nursery or reception classes in school to take up balance bike lessons.
- Invest in the best possible kit you can afford. A good bike that can be handed down to siblings or relatives is a brilliant investment and will make the whole experience easier and fun.
- Make friends with your local bike shop and keep the bikes in great condition and get advice about local routes.
- Ask you school if your kids will be taking part in Bikeability (cycling proficiency) in Yr 5-6 www.bikeability.org.uk. This is great safety based road training on their bikes.
- Sustrans, www.sustrans.org.uk Cycling Uk www.cyclinguk.org.uk and British Cycling www.britishcycling.org.uk/ websites all have great tips, advice and routes
- Consider getting involved in a local cycling club. British Cycling Go-ride clubs are ideal for children's instructor led coaching and events in a safe environment with peers
Its time for the screens to be put away and #GetOutside and adventure on those bikes.
For more information about getting involved in our community bike club get in touch with Helen Pollard or pop into store.