Principal’s Blog, Cycling and positive mental health, Friday 27th September 2019

This week’s principal’s blog is written by Miss McKenzie, our Director of Holistics.

This week is Bike to School week and an opportunity to really think about ways to support our children with their health, wellbeing and positive mindset. Giving opportunities and experiences for children outside and in the open air is recommended as one way to get them more active, taking time out from social media and away from the screens. Children love riding bikes, and with encouragement, this can grow into a routine and hobby with many health and wellbeing benefits, with the addition of benefits to the brain. When cycling, blood flow increases to the brain with the consequence of keep the brain healthy and having a time where all they need to do is focus on their inner happiness. As Mark Cavendish MBE and Olympic silver medallist points out “To me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining, or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike, I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

Cycling supports physical development by working entire body muscle, increasing bone health, the cardiovascular muscles, heart and lungs. Stamina and heart rate increase which is also good for weight control. We have been working with Nuffield Health recently who have kindly loaned us a static bike for competitions this week with students competing to cycle the longest on a higher resistance. Cycling is second only to swimming as a low impact activity but also works most of the major muscle groups of the lower and upper body. Legs push the pedals which draws on the quadriceps and hamstrings and in addition the smaller soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. Additionally, the arm muscles are used with the biceps and triceps getting a workout by gripping the handle for stability and engaging the deltoid muscles on the shoulders. It is advisable to encourage children to straighten their backs when cycling as this will reduce back aches after longer rides.

Confidence and self-esteem are also given a boost when cycling which supports emotional wellbeing. Students gain a sense of independence, makes them aware of their surroundings, how they feel, gain responsibility and improve their decision-making skills. We are working with Milton Keynes Council and the Bikeability scheme to offer our year 7s cycle proficiency tests to build their confidence and learn basic bike maintenance. Family bike rides together help to create strong family bonds, lasting relationships, an awareness of positive social interactions and create lasting memories. For those eco-conscious young people, the impact on the environment is minimal and gives an opportunity to be outside in Mother Nature with its therapeutic qualities to relieve stress, put the problems of the day behind you and stay young, cutting the risk of cardiovascular disease. As Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes recognised “When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”

There are certainly many benefits to cycling but don’t forget your bike helmet to stay safe on the road!

Miss L McKenzie