Pedals Over Pills: Studying Cycling And ADHD In Schools

Stanford University and The Specialized Foundation provide cycling programs complete with bikes and helmets to middle schools. The goal? Understand cycling’s effects on students that have ADHD.

specialized foundation stanford cycling study adhd

In 2016, more than 1,000 middle-school students rode bicycles for class. Specialized hopes to triple that number this year as part of its “Riding for Focus” program. The program explores the positive impact cycling displays on students with ADHD.

The Specialized Foundation uses cycling as a tool for children to achieve academic, health, and social success. Riding for Focus outfits middle schools across the U.S. with bikes, helmets, maintenance kits, and cycling curriculum training at Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, Calif.

Up to 20 bikes and helmets are supplied to each school that participates. Grant applications are open until March 24 to middle schools for the 2017-18 school year.

Along with the Specialized Foundation’s efforts, medical research is also taking place. As part of a two-year study with Stanford University, scientists aim to examine the relationship between cycling and ADHD.

ADHD and Cycling Research

After only one bike ride, students with ADHD experienced less impulsivity and made fewer attention related mistakes, according to initial research on cycling and ADHD in 2012.

Two studies are underway with Riding for Focus. The first explores the positive impact of cycling for children with ADHD through classroom performance and behavioral improvement. The second looks at standardized test scores between students cycling within the program, and those out of the program.

specialized foundation adhd
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The research partnership with Stanford is in its second and final year, and recently it found a post-doctoral candidate to lead the research efforts.

Riding For Focus

Bike safety and skills are among the topics riders learn. First-timers be warned, this is not a class on how to ride a bike.

While each school will likely have a different curriculum, expect students to learn basic bicycle mechanics, bike and street safety, and riding form.

specialized foundation adhd

The minimum riding requirements are 20 minutes at a moderate to vigorous intensity, for at least three days per week during the 6-8 week curriculum period.

The overall goals are:

  • Improvements in academic performance, fitness, and behavior
  • Positive long-term social and health outcomes
  • Reduction in core symptoms of ADHD

School Requirements

There are qualifications for schools to apply for the grant, among them a safe storage area for the bikes and three biking routes near the school that vary in difficulty and are safe.

Different Than Gym Class?

Rarely are bikes involved in gym class outside of stationary machines. And rarely is research specifically paired with a gym class.

Schools will also provide measurements from the program that evaluate the positive impact of riding during the school.

If you know of a middle school that should apply, grant applications are open until March 24.

cycling exercise kids specialized
Photo by Ethan Hickerson

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Midwest born, Nate Mitka started with Gearjunkie after a short stint as “intern”. An advocate of all outdoor activities he’s developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.

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