At a school for kids with behavior disorders, researchers offered
103 students seven weeks of so-called “cybercycling” during either
the fall or spring semester.
Cybercycling involves the use of stationary bikes for vigorous
rides. The students started out cycling for just 10 minutes and
worked their way up to more than 20 minutes over the course of the
When students didn’t participate in the twice-weekly games on
stationary bikes, they had traditional physical education with a
focus on team sports, socialization and building motor skills.
When kids did cybercycling, they were 32 to 51 percent less likely
to exhibit poor self-control or receive disciplinary time out of
class, the study found.
Improvements were most pronounced on days the kids had gym but
persisted throughout the seven-week intervention.
“Many studies have shown that aerobic exercise can help improve mood
and behavior,” said lead study author April Bowling, a public health
researcher at Harvard University in Boston.
“When mood and self-regulation, which is the ability to control
behavior, is improved, then children can be more successful in the
classroom,” Bowling added by email.
While the study didn’t examine how or why different approaches to
gym class might produce different behavior in school, it’s possible
the more intense aerobic activity offered by cybercycling produced
better behavior and helped improve classroom dynamics throughout the
week, Bowling said.
Most of the students were boys, about 12 years old on average.
About 40 percent of the students were diagnosed with autism, 60
percent were diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity
disorder, 40 percent had anxiety disorders and 30 percent had mood
Both the number of disciplinary events and the amount of time missed
from class due to behavior issues declined meaningfully during weeks
kids participated in the cybercycling program, researchers report in
Beyond its small size and limited number of female participants,
another limitation of the study is that results from these students
at a therapeutic day school may not apply to kids at traditional
public schools, the authors note.
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“It is important to see if their results translate into public
schools, but as the authors point out, cybercycles are expensive and
may be (too expensive) for most schools,” said Sara Benjamin Neelon,
a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Boston who
wasn’t involved in the study.
It’s also possible that the novelty of these particular stationary
bikes, which many students wouldn’t have tried before, might inspire
them to be more active than they would be during gym class games
they played many times before, Benjamin Neelon said by email.
“There may be some benefit in this new approach to physical activity
that could wear off over time as children get used to the cycling -
but only time will tell,” she added.
Still, the findings suggest that parents looking to help children
manage behavior problems may want to consider working brief bouts of
intense exercise into kids’ normal routines, Bowling said.
“They should not feel overwhelmed by the expectation that their
child can only benefit if they exercise for 30 to 60 minutes,
something that is very hard for many of these children and their
parents to achieve,” Bowling added. “Instead, focus on finding
something that your child enjoys and starting off with 10 or 15
minutes at a time; walking the dog, hiking with you, playing active
video games, whatever it might be.”
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2iWTY4i Pediatrics, online January 9, 2017.
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