Effect of a Bicycling Unit on the Fitness of Middle School Students

By Lirgg, Cathy D.; Gorman, Dean R. et al. | Physical Educator, Spring 2018 | Go to article overview

Effect of a Bicycling Unit on the Fitness of Middle School Students


Lirgg, Cathy D., Gorman, Dean R., Merrie, Michael D., Hadadi, Atyh A., Physical Educator


Riding a bicycle can be a fun and invigorating experience for young and old. Throughout history, people have used bicycles as a method of transportation, a way to maintain fitness, and a means of spending quality time with partners or family (Barbour, 2016; Cooper et al., 2006; Menschik, Ahmed, Alexander, & Blum, 2008). The benefits of riding a bicycle have been well documented for adults and include improved cardiovascular fitness, a reduction in risk factors related to disease, and an enhanced feeling of well-being. Gordon-Larson, Boone-Heininen, Sternfeld, Jacobs, and Lewis (2009) found that commuters who cycled to work compared to non-physically active commuters were overall more fit, tended to be less obese, and had more optimal levels of blood pressure, triglyceride, and insulin. Other researchers have reported similar results related to reductions in cardiovascular risk factors, lower blood pressure, and decreased hypertension (Hamer & Chida, 2007; Hu et al., 2002). Additional benefits for adults include lower stress, improved levels of well-being and self-confidence, and reduced tiredness (Appleton, 2011; Boyd, Hillman, Nevill, Pearce, & Tuxworth, 1998).

For a child or adolescent, learning to ride a bicycle can result in an immense feeling of accomplishment second to none (Coulson, 2015). Besides these feelings of accomplishment, other health-related benefits of cycling including body fat reduction, a tendency to be less overweight, and less likelihood of lower back pain have been reported for children (Borrestad, Ostergaard, Anderson, & Bere, 2012; Dudas & Crocetti, 2008; Menschik et al., 2008; Rosenberg, Sallis, Conway, Cain, & McKenzie, 2006; Silva & Lopes, 2008; Sjolie, 2003). According to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition (2016), over 80% of adolescents do not get enough physical activity to meet the minimum standards for aerobic activity. The American College of Sports Medicine (2012) recommends that children need at least 1 hr of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily combined with 60 min of strength training per week (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). A number of school districts throughout the United States have recently implemented in-school bicycle curricula in an attempt to address the growing problem of childhood inactivity. Many of the schools have either fully implemented or have adapted their bicycle curriculum based upon Bikeology (Society of Health and Physical Educators [SHAPE America], 2016). Bikeology is a bicycle safety curriculum that was developed through the collaborative efforts of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Shape America. The Bikeology curriculum, which was released in May 2014, includes lesson plans, bicycle skill units, skill assessments, safety instruction, bicycle maintenance, rules of the road information, and a parent's guide to bike safety. NHTSA and SHAPE America developed the curriculum for use by middle and high school physical education (PE) teachers, and the curriculum is aligned with the National Standards for K-12 Physical Education.

Even though much is known concerning the health benefits of cycling for adults and children, little is known regarding the possible gains in balance, explosive power, and agility within youth resulting from participation in a cycling unit in school. Specifically, this study investigated the effect of an in-school bicycle program on the static balance, explosive leg power, and agility in children.

Method

Participants

Forty-one seventh grade students from two urban middle schools in northwest Arkansas served as participants. After institutional review board approval, permission was obtained from school principals and their PE teachers, and each child whose data was used submitted a parental consent form. Students in the treatment school (n = 19; 9 male, 10 female; M = 12.55) participated in a bicycle unit from March until mid-May. …

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