Being active is essential to children’s overall health and wellbeing. Whether it’s from sport, play or daily routines like riding to school, regular exercise improves kids’ physical, mental and social development. Unfortunately, most Aussie kids just aren’t getting enough.
The Australian Government recommends that kids aged 5-17 engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. This can be anything from a brisk walk or bike ride, to sports that get kids huffing and puffing, like footy, swimming or netball.
However a national study by Active Healthy Kids Australia found that 80% of Australian kids are not meeting the recommended levels of daily physical activity. What’s more, 1 in 4 Australian children are obese, and most spend more than two hours sitting in front of screens.
So what can we do to get Australian kids on the path to better health? Active Healthy Kids Australia suggests one part of the solution could be active transport – like riding bikes.
“By encouraging your child to ride to and from destinations, you can help them develop better navigational skills and knowledge of their surrounding area.”
How bike riding can help your child
As children, many of us would have ridden our bikes to school. And many of us will remember how much fun it was. Today, less than 13% of primary and secondary school children regularly ride their bikes to school. That means the majority of our children are missing out on the fun of bike riding we had growing up.
By encouraging your child to ride a bike, you’re giving them an enjoyable and easy way to find their 60 minutes of daily exercise. The more enjoyable a physical activity is, the more often your child is likely to do it. And the more they exercise, the more they improve their coordination, balance and bone health, as well as lower their risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The benefits of bike riding go beyond physical health. Active Healthy Kids Australia says improved spatial awareness is another positive effect of bike riding. By encouraging your child to ride to and from destinations, you can help them develop better navigational skills and knowledge of their surrounding area. These are the valuable skills your child needs to become an independent and resilient young adult.
How to get your kids riding more
Once you’ve invested in a bike and helmet for your child, they’ll have everything they need to start riding. To get them on their bikes more often, cycling legend and Medibank ambassador Cadel Evans shares a few tips.
1. Ride to school
Going to school and exercising are both necessary activities for your child, so why not combine the two? “If we don’t have time to ride the full distance, I park a few blocks from school and then we cycle the rest of the way,” says Cadel.
2. Plan bike-friendly family outings
Take a family bike ride to the park or along the beach, or make trips to the cinema even more exciting by riding instead of taking the car. “Riding as a family to a destination is more economical and healthier than driving,” Cadel says. “It might take longer but that just means you spend more time together.”
3. Use a bike when running errands
If you need to pick up a few groceries, go to the post office, or take your child somewhere, ride there together on your bikes. You’ll get your daily exercise and errands done in one go.