Stationary bikes can help children with ADHD

By: Alicia Ardelli

Classrooms are always evolving and teachers are constantly looking for ways to improve their students’ attention during class time. On top of introducing methods that make it easier to deliver material to children, some teachers are presenting an easier way for students to focus on this material: stationary bikes.

​Exercise has always been considered as a form of “medication” for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). John Ratey M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that exercise “may actually be a replacement for stimulants, but, for most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.” Since physical activity activates important functions of the brain such as, sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention, Ratey says exercise causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.

​Stationary bikes are one part of a self-regulation program being introduced in school boards across Canada. The goal of the program is to have students understand and regulate their emotions. In doing so, they better their overall mental health and increase their confidence which helps with completing school work. Bikes in classrooms allows students to blow off steam and it improves their concentration and memory levels. According to a report by CBC News, teachers who have already implemented stationary bikes in their classrooms “have seen an increase in students’ attention span with more engagement in the learning process, resulting in a significant improvement in academic achievement.”

​Sparks Fly is a specific classroom bike program that provides the contraptions to schools across the country. It was implemented by the not-for-profit organization, Run for Life, which believes aerobic activity has a significant impact on learning. With scientific support from Ratey and Dr. Stuart Shanker, the program has deployed over 2400 silent spin bikes to students in need of the energy release.

​Like any prescription from your doctor, it’s possible that not all symptoms will respond to exercise and a specified cycling regimen. Various studies are currently being conducted to verify whether these methods are effective for aiding children with ADHD. Past studies have shown that exercise has proven to be beneficial as a replacement for drugs but as ADHD can have several causes and symptoms, more thought has to be put into the variables of the intensity and length of cycling regimens between different children with ADHD.
​If the teachers at your child’s school has yet to jump on this bandwagon, Ratey suggests any other exercise at all, a few times a week to kick-start a better regulation of mood and motivation for schoolwork.

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