Our journey to better understand how riding a bike can impact our brains
Today, there's a gap in our understanding of the neurological basis of ADHD and the efficacy of various treatment options. We've partnered with RTSG Neuroscience Consultants and Stanford Medical School to conduct research that's been bridging the gap by furthering the scientific knowledge of how riding can enhance brain function, especially for kids struggling with ADHD.
Outride-Stanford Research Partnership
Over the past several years, there's been a heightened interest in the connection between exercise and fitness as a method to improve brain function and as a means of improving attention and concentration in children. A growing body of research has shown that exercise can lead to benefits, like improved thinking, greater happiness, decreased anxiety and depression, and better academic performance. In addition to this, studies have shown that moderate-to-vigorous exercise enhances executive and motor functioning, which are skills that are impaired in children with ADHD.
There remain significant gaps in our understanding of ADHD and the role exercise plays in reducing its core symptoms, like inattention and impulsivity. And to date, there haven't been any large-scale, primary research studies conducted to specifically examine the unique advantages that cycling can provide over other forms of physical activity for kids with ADHD.
To address this gap, the we've partnered with Dr. Allan Reiss and his team at Stanford Medical School in order to launch a research study to better understand the effects of cycling on brain function and cognition in children with ADHD. Through this multi-year collaboration, we'll explore how a range of cycling programs, differing in intensity, duration, and frequency, influence the brain and behavior, as well as symptoms of ADHD like concentration, attention, and inhibition in adolescents. In the long term, we hope to use these finding to help doctors tailor cycling-specific interventions as a part of a comprehensive treatment program for ADHD.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Our Initial Research (RTSG Neuroscience Consultants)
Beginning in the fall of 2012, we partnered with RTSG Neuroscience Consultants to conduct a series of studies aimed at understanding how cycling can positively affect student learning, health, and wellbeing for kids with ADHD. In our initial studies with middle school students, we measured changes in their cognitive, emotional/social, and physical wellbeing before, during, and after a month-long, five-days-a-week cycling program. This included monitoring changes in electrical brain activity, and what we discovered is that middle school students who participated in the biking program had improvements in attention and mood, as well as long-term cognitive performance, social relationships, and general emotional and physical health.
The students' brains showed faster information processing and positive changes in activation patterns, especially for those with attention difficulties. Even after just one bike ride, students with ADHD were less impulsive and made fewer mistakes on attention-related tasks. We were encouraged by this, and our later studies were focused on whether the cycling-induced improvements in attention, cognitive function, and brain activation translated to improved academic performance.
Again, we saw that students who successfully completed our biking program scored significantly higher on standardized math tests when compared with their peers that didn't ride. Together, the findings from this research indicates that kids who incorporate biking into their school day are better prepared for learning, and they're both happier and healthier.
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