The Benefits of Bicycle Riding for Kids
Most parents will readily admit that finding activities that keep kids healthy, entertained, and away from screens is no easy feat. In fact, a recent survey shows that 71% of parents are concerned about the amount of screen time their kids get and how it might affect their development. Solutions designed to limit screen time range from installing parental control apps to asking children to justify their technology use to establishing elaborate household schedules for device use.
While it’s likely that at least some of these strategies are effective, they’re also exhausting for parents to maintain and enforce. Fortunately, there’s a simpler solution—and one that kids might actually enjoy, too: bicycling.
When we think of the benefits of bicycle riding, we typically think of its popularity as a form of exercise, or a method of commuting that can help reduce our carbon footprint. These things are all true; however, they’re not the whole story. As it turns out, especially for children, bicycling comes with a slew of other benefits. Here’s a few reasons why every kid should learn to ride a bike:
Riding a Bike Improves Coordination and Balance
Bicycling is unique in that it not only engages the whole body, but also multiple different parts of the brain. Biking helps to improve motor integration, which involves coordinating complex movements between the brain and muscles. Further, riding a bike requires that children practice proprioception, or conceptualizing where their bodies are in space. Both of these are extremely important for brain development.
We often hear the phrase “like riding a bike,” which implies that once a skill has been learned, it’s difficult to forget. And while biking does involve a certain amount of muscle memory, suggesting that our sense of balance (which is linked to proprioception) remains constant throughout our lives may not be accurate. On the contrary, balance and proprioception need to be practiced in order to be maintained.
Biking Gets Kids Outside
In addition to the intrinsic benefits of riding a bike, spending time on bicycles is doubly beneficial as a means of helping children spend more time outside. Playing outdoors has been proven to have a variety of benefits for both kids and adults, including improved mood and reduced stress, higher Vitamin D levels, and increased attention spans.
Riding Bikes Promotes Kids’ Self-Confidence and Independence
Learning to ride a bike is difficult. As a result, mastering that skill can boost kids’ self-confidence and self-esteem. Further, for families who live in neighborhoods where it’s safe to do so, riding a bicycle can provide kids with a source of independent transportation, which can increase their sense of agency and independence. Biking also requires that kids learn to be aware of their surroundings and be conscious of safety and road rules.
Bicycling Keeps Kids Physically Healthy
Childhood obesity continues to be a major problem, and riding a bike is a great way to ensure that kids stay active and healthy. Bicycling is an aerobic exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, including the legs (pedaling), core (stabilization and balance), and arms (steering). Riding a bike regularly builds strength, improves endurance, and increases lung capacity. It’s also a low-impact exercise, which makes it a great choice for people (and kids) who need less pressure on their joints.
Aside from its direct physical benefits, biking is a great way for kids to manage their energy levels. Kids who exercise regularly generally have an easier time focusing and more regular sleep schedules.
Bikes Provide Opportunities to Socialize
One of the biggest perks of bicycling is that it can be done solo or in groups. Taking a bike ride together is an excellent family bonding activity, and it’s also something that kids can do with their friends or siblings. Even better, biking easily allows kids to maintain social distance if necessary.
All Kids Bike is a national movement dedicated to bringing the mental and physical benefits of bike riding to every kid in America. Led by the Strider Education Foundation, our mission is to make bicycling skills an integral part of kids’ elementary school education. Our Kindergarten PE Program provides the curriculum, bikes, and safety equipment needed to teach every kindergartner how to ride at no cost to the school itself. Contact us to learn more about how you can support our vision to make this milestone skill accessible to children, or consider donating to a school in your community.