Whether you’re racing to school, or spending holiday time with the family, riding a bike provides the excitement of adventure as well as whole-body health benefits. Making physical activity family-friendly helps role model healthy behaviours for kids, which can make them more likely to continue to be active and healthy as they grow up. What’s more, you won’t be alone on the bike path; October was WA Bike Month so families everywhere have been pulling the old mountain bikes out of the shed, pumping the tyres, and getting their pedal on.
Active kids move more as they mature
Kids who are regularly physically active are more likely to continue to be active throughout the life-cycle, and any sort of movement matters. Less than one-quarter of Aussie kids get enough physical activity during the day, and exercise that isn’t engaging is a big reason why this decreases significantly as they head to high-school. Putting a spin on fitness with a picturesque pedal through the park can establish enjoyment of exercise in children and condition positivity to activity. Cycling is also super as it develops strength, aerobic fitness, and balance and coordination, all while being low-impact – perfect for developing bodies.
Creating community conscious kids
Starting healthy habits young can also create a strong connection to community in kids. Cycling is better for the environment, saves money on transport and parking, and takes cars off the streets in our suburbs. It also develops awareness of the local area and streets, and awareness of other road and path users to promote safe practice when out of the home.
Fun or fitness for the family?
Tips and tricks for that cycling fix
Ride to the shops
Try taking the kids for small trips to the shops and save the hassle of parking. Take the scenic route, and remember a backpack to cart your milk or bread home.
Switch-up the school drop-off
Cycling to school avoids the traffic and busy car parks, and can sometimes be faster than driving. For kids old enough to start riding alone, map out a safe cycle route to school on the weekend or school holidays and send them on a practice run. For the little ones, why not ride as a family to role model fantastic health behaviours.
Explore your local bike path network so you can have a safer and more bike friendly ride, or nip through nature on the weekend for some family-friendly fitness. Showing kids that cycling can be functional and fun is another step toward setting up long-term healthy habits.
Find your local city circuit
Nothing beats the feeling of freedom you get when riding at your own pace and exploring the area you live in. If you or your child aren’t as confident on the road, find a park or circuit near you that is long enough to enjoy, and doesn’t include road crossings or traffic lights. Perry Lakes, Lake Monger, Bibra Lake, Canning River Regional Park, Carine Regional Open Space, and Yellagonga Regional Park are all fantastic options with a variety of loop distances.
Loving lycra isn’t law when enjoying a ride, but there are some road rules you and your family need to follow to make sure the experience is fun and safe for all. Make reflectors, lights, sun protection, and helmets a habit from the very first push of the pedal.
Cycling is a wonderful way to treat health holistically as it provides kids with an opportunity to develop aerobic and muscular fitness, balance, decision-making, and a connection to community and their environment. More importantly, family time spent exploring your local area on two wheels, or even just popping down to the shops, creates an enjoyment of exercise that can last well into adulthood.
Adapted from a LiveLighter article by James Stevens-Cutler