The following is excerpted from an online article posted by News Medical.
Physical activity has positive effects on mental health and yet, activity rates are declining. This is particularly worrying because the mental well-being of teenagers continues to deteriorate. In the US, one in six school children is diagnosed with some type of mental disorder.
Riding bikes is a promising approach to introduce school-aged children to physical activity. Now, researchers in the US have investigated how adolescents’ psychosocial well-being changed after participating in a school-based cycling program.
“Participation in a school cycling education program during the Covid-19 pandemic was associated with improved psychosocial well-being amongst middle schoolers in the US,” said Dr Esther Walker, research director at the non-profit organization Outride. “While we saw promising increases in some student subgroups, certain groups had higher levels of self-reported mental well-being both before and after participating in the program.”
“It was really encouraging to see such a positive student response to a cycling-specific physical education program,” said Fletcher Dementyev, a research assistant at Loma Linda University and first author of the study published in Frontiers in Sports and Active Living. “This motivates us, and hopefully others, to continue investigating and developing cycling as a pathway to improved health and well-being in adolescents.”
More than 1,200 middle schoolers, aged 11 to 14 years, participated in the program’s surveys. Before and after cycling, they completed two surveys that included measures of current mental well-being and psychological functioning. Given the improvement in teenagers’ mental well-being scores, short term physical activity programs hold promise of having a positive influence on mental health and well-being in adolescents, the team said.