Cycling Programs at School Linked to Improved Mental Health: Study


Researchers in the US looked at the effects of a school-based cycling programme on adolescents’ psychological well-being. Recent study findings from Washington, US, indicate that school cycling programs improve the mental health of teenagers.
Getting school-aged kids involved in physical activity is a potential way to promote cycling. Even though physical activity levels are dropping, exercise has a favourable impact on mental health.

This is especially concerning given the continued decline in youngsters’ mental health. Approximately one in six school-age children in the US has a diagnosed mental illness.

About the Study:

Fletcher Dementyev, Brian Fish, Nana Yaa Sakyi Opoku, Lydia Tesfaye, Jason Chan1, Larry Ortiz, and Susanne B. conducted the study in North America. Montgomery, Esther J. Walker, and Sean M. Wilson” and was published in Frontiers in Sports and Active Living.
To conduct the study, the Riding for Focus (R4F) project was launched. We developed a 6- to 8-week cycling education course to impart the fundamentals of cycling to middle school children and initiate them into a lifetime of physical activity. The R4F program’s secondary objective is to enhance adolescents’ emotional and mental health.

This study aimed to measure how the R4F programme affected adolescents’ psychological well-being during the COVID-19 epidemic. The programme evaluation also looked at relationships between R4F participation and outcomes related to mental health in the context of known risk factors, such as gender, race, socioeconomic status, participation in IEP programmes, after-school club attendance, screen time, sleep duration, and levels of physical activity.

Pre-intervention surveys were completed by 1148 middle school children, between the ages of 11 and 14, anonymously gathered before and after the R4F programme in 20 schools across North America. Additionally, 815 students responded to post-intervention surveys.

Study Findings:

Although effect sizes were small, there was an overall improvement in psychosocial well-being following the R4F programme as well as positive changes in the psychosocial well-being of students. According to the findings, teenagers between the ages of 11 to 14 who take part in a school-based cycling intervention programme can see an improvement in their psychosocial well-being. Results show that several known modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors harm psychosocial outcomes, linking them to the R4F program’s positive impact.

The results from students demonstrate that participating in the program still correlated with improvements in the mental health and well-being of young people, as well as a positive physical education experience. Despite not meeting CDC requirements for daily physical activity, the R4F program itself still demonstrates this observation. The findings also stress that incorporating cycling into physical education (PE) is a viable option and highlight the necessity for additional, more comprehensive research to accurately evaluate the beneficial effects of the R4F scholastic cycling program on the psychological health and well-being of middle school-aged students.

Word from Authors:

“During the COVID-19 outbreak, middle school children in the US who took part in a school cycling education programme reported greater psychosocial well-being. While several student subgroups showed encouraging growth, some of these groups had greater levels of self-reported mental health both before and after the programme,” according to Dr. Esther Walker, research director of the nonprofit organisation Outride.

People can use a bicycle for transportation, as a form of recreation, and in competitions. Thus, students are engaging in a task that not only promotes their health and wellness, but also gives them the confidence to travel across the globe,” as stated by Dr. Sean Wilson, the study’s senior author and a researcher at Loma Linda University.

Positive Impact of Cycling-Specific Physical Education Program

Fletcher Dementyev, a research assistant at Loma Linda University and the study’s first author, stated, “It was incredibly exciting to see such a strong student response to a cycling-specific physical education program. This encourages us, and perhaps others, to keep looking into and improving cycling as a means of enhancing adolescent health and wellbeing.”

Researchers also concluded that the R4F programme led to an overall improvement in the psychosocial well-being of students who identified as female, non-white, physically active, participating in IEP programs, adhering to screen time guidelines, and engaged in school activities, though effect sizes were modest. Relative risk assessments showed that males, white students, and those from high socioeconomic status households still had lower relative risks of acquiring psychosocial disorders after intervention, despite advances in mental health among underrepresented groups.

In the end, Fletcher Dementyev concluded by saying, “We envision this study as the start of a national conversation about the benefits of investing in cycling education.”

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