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09/06/2011 // INFO Leave a comment

“I can do it, mum!” The Importance of Getting Your Kids Cycling


Importance of getting your kids cycling

To coincide with our family bike promotion Julia Keller, Family Cycling Specialist from Velorution, has written the following guest blog.

In these days of too much TV, computer games, indoor activities, and overly available junk food, the question isn’t whether our kids need more exercise but how to get them excited about getting it.

Unfortunately, kids these days don’t always choose to eat right and kids and parents are being constantly bombarded by advertising for frozen chicken nuggets, fast food chains, and highly processed cereals.

As parents, most of us live in a world filled with too many things to do and the need to balance our everyday busy lives.  Hence, we sometimes overly rely on sedentary activities that placate and occupy our children and give us a few moments of quiet time for ourselves: like letting them watch TV and/or play video games.

High obesity rate

As a busy parent, it’s often difficult to take the time to bring our kids to the local park or playground for a session of running around, climbing, or kicking around a football.  Hence, it’s no surprise that the obesity rate is the highest it’s ever been and that children begin struggling with keeping their weight down at a much earlier age than several decades ago.

But there is something every parent can do with just a little patience and a small change to a usually dull routine to give their kids the gift of extra confidence and also a regular activity that will help them keep fit and feel good about themselves: teach them how to cycle.

One of the best forms of exercise

According to the website 24 hour fitness.co.uk, in their article describing “The Health Benefits of Cycling”, there are numerous significant benefits to cycling, which is a sport that, according to fitness experts, is one of the best forms of exercise available.

The article states that cycling “gives the body a fast and energetic workout. There is a definite shaping, toning and firming of the thighs, the calf muscles and the pelvis region. Fat melts away and is replaced by muscle. Some studies suggest that cycling is one of the few exercises that can help reduce cellulite from the thigh region.There is relatively less stress on the knees and ankles while cycling as compared to other activities like running and aerobic exercises.”

In addition, cycling, like other heart-rate increasing exercises also has the added benefit of increasing metabolic activity in the body while also contributing towards muscle tone.  And we all know that a faster metabolism (meaning we stay slimmer) and better muscle tone is a good thing – for us, as much as for our kids.

Self confidence and esteem

In addition to the many health benefits, cycling also offers another significant benefit to our children: the ability to increase their self confidence and self esteem.  This is because learning to cycle is challenging and fun and also requires balance and coordination.  So our children can feel good about themselves when they succeed.  And we can feel good about ourselves when we’re able to show them how.

Also, having a child cycle themselves to school can make the school run that much faster (and faster is always better on those busy mornings).  When they’re really good, we can even cycle beside them (unlike adults, children are allowed to cycle on the pavement for added safety), which will make any commute to and from school seem like a breeze compared to the long and tedious slow walk.

Meanwhile, our kids will be getting all of the added benefits of exercise while also enjoying getting to school (now that sounds pretty good!).  Plus running or cycling beside a cycling child will help get us into better shape as well (that sounds even better!).

What sort of bike?

There are tons of children’s bikes out there for parents to buy for their kids.  The best, in our opinion, are those that are the easiest for children to learn to ride and that adhere to the highest safety standards.  Our preference is for German bikes, like the Puky, as the safety standards for children’s bikes are quite rigid there.  In fact, all Pukys come with a coaster brake and front brake as standard, as well as reflectors and a bell fitted onto the bikes for easy visibility and alertability.  The bigger Puky bikes even come with an integrated dynamo – and all for under £400!

For the little ones who are in the earlier stages of learning how to cycle, we suggest balance bikes as a way to learn, rather than stabilizers.  Balance bikes are bikes without pedals that help a child learn how to balance on a bike properly as they mimic the exact feeling of being on a bike, without the pedaling bit.

These are great for making a child feel comfortable sitting and moving on a bike, while their feet still rest safely on the ground.  Children can then become comfortable cycling at a younger age (kids can get onto a balance bike from two and a half or three years) making it much easier to teach them how to use a normal pedal bike a few years later.

In fact, at Velorution, we are so sure of the power of balance bikes to teach kids to cycle that we have a bigger version of one of our Like a Bike’s that we rent out for one to two weeks at a nominal rate to somewhat older kids who need just a bit of practice getting comfortable balancing on a bike.  We pretty much guarantee that most kids will be off and pedaling very quickly after using one of these bikes for a number of weeks.

There are many wonderful balance bikes out there.  The idea is the lighter the better, as the parents will often end up carrying these when the little ones get tired of riding.  Also, see what other children have out there as that’s probably what the kids like to ride best and what is of better quality.

Teaching your kid to cycle

Teaching your kids to cycle can be as easy as buying them a balance bike and then just using that for the school runs and for those trips to the playground and on public transport.

Basically, kids will always find it more fun to cycle or balance bike rather than to walk.  For a parent, the additional advantage is that they can then get places quicker and without the buggy.  It’s certainly much easier to take a balance bike on the tube or bus than to take the buggy as these are normally lighter and easier to handle independently.

For those parents that need some additional help teaching kids to get up and going on their bike, there is an excellent article originally published in BikeBiz, entitled “Throw away the stabilisers!“.  Then, once the kids are cycling easily, we as parents can worry about those other daunting tasks, like how to get them to eat healthier and watch less television.  But at least we’ll know that they’re well on their way to excellent fitness!

See also

Safer routes will encourage more to cycle

British Cycling aims to make Cycling more of a Breeze for women

from Going Going Bike – Auctions, Bike News, Cycle Stuff

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