Family The science behind why riding a bike might boost mental well-being, plus 7 ideas to get children pedaling.
Shannon Brescher Shea’s nine-year-old struggled with focus and following directions at home and at school. But after riding his bike—whether around the park or to school—he felt calmer.
“We called it moving meditation,” says Shea, who is a family biking advocate and author in Maryland. “We saw how incredibly helpful it was for his focus, emotional regulation, and ability to follow directions.”
Shea’s experience isn’t unique. Science has repeatedly proven that physical activity contributes to improved mental health. “Exercise, no matter your age, is the single best thing you can do for every organ in your body, including your brain,” says Allan Reiss , a psychiatry and paediatrics professor and director of the Division of Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.
And while any exercise helps, a growing body of research shows bicycling is among the activities that might provide even more of a mental health boost. “Our research shows that kids who get out for a bike ride at least once a week report higher levels of mental well-being,” says cognitive scientist Esther Walker , research program manager at Outride, a nonprofit organisation that conducts cycling research and supports programming for youth.
At a time when youth mental health is in crisis, bicycling is one avenue families might not have fully leveraged. If your child has a bike—or has access to one—here is what you need to know to reap […]