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The Biking to School Infographic suggests that children benefit from active transportation.
With the benefits of exercise being virtually endless, it only makes sense to focus on the early active habits of youth. However, a recently released infographic by PeopleForBikes shows that only 57 percent of U.S. youth (ages 3-17) rode a bike in the last year culminating in only 40 days out of that year.
The infographic also shows that children who bike at least two times per week are less likely to be overweight. Moreover, youth who used motorized transportation as a means to commute to school gained an average of two to three pounds more per year than their more active counterparts.
While engaging in consistent exercise helps children to develop healthy lifestyles physically, being active also aids in the learning development and mental stability of children. During physical activity, the pituitary gland at the base of the neck is constantly being stimulated, which in turn allows for the production of growth hormones that encourages strong bones. An active brain is a healthy brain which also improves memory, mood, and the ability to pay attention. Additionally, consistent physical activity in childhood discourages mood disorders in later life.
PeopleForBikes found that only twenty-nine percent of children bike for transportation as well as for recreation, with only sixty-seven percent biking only for recreation, and a measly three percent solely for transportation. Of those children, PeopleForBikes found that boys are more likely to bike than girls.
A way of integrating active transportation into the daily lives of children is through a process called “gradual release of responsibility” where parents model the behavior they wish to see in their children. So the way to show children how to be self-assured young adults and teenagers, is to show them how sure and independent their parents are. However, PeopleForBikes found that adults who ride a bike do so only eleven days out of the year.
Biking together can be a great way to stay active as a family and instill life-long values in children. After a while children gain confidence and consequently their parents gain confidence as well, rested assured that their children have the skills and experience to get around by themselves.
By encouraging children to bike to school as well as for recreation they are being given the opportunity to build life skills. For instance, kids who bike to school encounter many instances of minor risk. In both assessing and overcoming these minor risks children develop resiliency and self-confidence that will help them in later years to take on life’s opportunities and challenges assertively.
Furthermore, integrating biking into the daily routine of children teaches them to judge risks in terms of what is dangerous and what is not. Children who spend a lot of time indoors using television or video games as entertainment tend to become risk-adverse for lack of experience with real life decisions. By supporting and modelling active behavior, parents enable children to experience life for themselves and create their own judgments that will help them in later life.
The advantages of active transportation for children are numerous; children who bike develop the increased awareness of their surroundings, self-confidence, and the mental and physical health to face challenges, opportunities, and the road in front of them. It is time to take action allowing them to do so.