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Therapeutic Benefits of Riding a bicycle

 In General Stimulation, Occupational Therapy

The experience of my first bicycle ride as a young child still remains vividly present in my memory.  The feeling of going onto an adventure, the joy and the light wind caressing the skin of my face and arms are difficult to forget. 25 years later, bicycle riding continues to be one of my favorite outdoor activities, while I continue to experience the same amount of joy!

Riding a bicycle is an economical activity which can be easily incorporated in the weekly routine and can be enjoyed by people of all age groups. It is an easy activity generally to learn and once learned, the skill of riding a bicycle can not be easily forgotten.

Here are a few reasons you should consider introducing cycling this upcoming spring and summer to your kids and family:

Improved fitness and physical health

Regular physical activity decreases the chances of having serious health issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle such as for example, obesity, heart diseases, cancer, mental illness and diabetes.

As you pedal, cycling uses all major muscle groups and as you breathe deeper and perspire, your heart, blood vessels and lungs received a great workout.

In summary, the main physical health benefits of regular cycling are:

  • Increased fitness of the heart and blood vessels
  • Increased muscle flexibility and strength
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Improved coordination and posture
  • Improved body weight
  • Prevention or management of illness

 Improved mental health

Due to the effects of exercise itself and the enjoyment that riding a bicycle can bring, regular cycling reduces feelings of anxiety, depression and decreases stress levels.

Riding a bicycle can provide children with opportunities for ‘risk taking’ such as: How far can I reach up on hill? Will I be able to keep my bicycle steady on the down hill? Can I take this sharp turn?. This helps children make decisions and solve problems and consequently improve their confidence.

Develop gross motor skills

Regular cycling can help develop a variety of motor skills. Balance skills are used to maintain the bicycle in a steady position. Bilateral coordination skills are used to pedal consecutively and while holding onto the handlebars with both hands. Strength is needed to maintain the body in the same position and to push down the pedal with the feet and to increase speed. Cycling is a great activity to help develop posture as balance and core strength skills are being activated. Hand strength is also needed to grip the handle bars.

Sensory Experiences

Cycling offers a variety of sensory experiences. The vestibular system; involved with the ability to maintain balance and an upright posture by sensing one’s orientation to space, can be stimulated with the novel speed of movement and with the use of balance skills to keep the bicycle upright.  The proprioceptive system; involved with the ability to sense the position of the body i.e body awareness, is stimulated by pushing downwards on the pedal especially, when going up a small hill and by contracting the shoulder and arm muscles to hold onto the handlebars and by contracting the core muscles to maintain an upright posture.

Cycling in a park enhances the sensory experiences and can be more pleasant. The environment of a park, can provide pleasant auditory stimulation (birds, wind blowing in trees, sounds of waves, etc.), tactile stimulation (feeling the wind blowing gently on skin of face, etc.), olfactory (smell of a flowers, trees, ocean smells, etc. ) and visual ( sun light, variety of colors seen from flowers, trees and water, the sun’s reflection sparkling on the water, etc.).

In sum, cycling, when completed regularly, is a great activity to help improve your child’s physical health, motor skills and emotional well-being. It is relatively an easy activity to learn, can be easily incorporated in the weekly schedule and can be (tremendously!) enjoyed by people of all age groups.

Happy and safe cycling!

Anna Rentoulis
Occupational Therapist

Resources for safety

We recommend that you consult this webpage for information regarding safety when cycling:

The ideas presented in this article are for informational purposes only and do not include a medical advice or can not substitute individual therapy. Supervise your child and use appropriate and reasonable caution while doing any of these activities in order to ensure safety, especially if there is any risk of injury. The creator of this article disclaims responsibility for any injury that may occur when completing the activities mentioned.

References:

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/cycling-health-benefits

 

 

 

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