Thursday 18 February 2016

The Benefits of Cycling for Children with Additional Needs.

Everyone benefits from taking regular exercise – it’s proven to be good for both the mind and body but not everyone finds it easy to exercise regularly.
Although exercise comes in many forms, from a brisk walk to a full marathon, getting a regular workout can still be difficult for anyone with a physical or mental impairment, but choosing the right routine and the right equipment can make things a whole lot easier.
The main thing to bear in mind is that exercise needs to be both fun and inclusive, especially where children are concerned, and cycling offers exactly that.

Why choose cycling?
Cycling is a great way to exercise for people of all ages and abilities as it offers a highly effective, low-resistance cardiovascular workout. And it’s fun!
As is the case with all forms of exercise, cycling promotes physical and mental well-being, but it also has the added benefit of encouraging independent mobility, something that can be particularly empowering in those with additional needs, particularly children.
And the very nature of the cycling means that riders can go it alone or as part of a team, meaning it can present a challenge to individuals, or encourage social interaction; it all depends upon what the rider wants to get out of it.
So, what exactly can the rider get out of it?

What are the benefits of cycling?
Whether riding as part of a team or going solo, cycling can benefit children with additional needs in all areas of their lives.
Children with limited mobility, for instance, will not only benefit physically but will also find the experience empowering and flourish from the independence getting about on a bike offers them.
And all children will be stimulated mentally by the challenge that cycling offers and feel rewarded by the sense of achievement that comes at the end of a rigorous ride.
As far as physical benefits go, cycling promotes improved postural control, co-ordination, strength and stamina and is especially good for the heart and lungs as it provides non weight bearing aerobic exercise.
One of the best things about cycling, though, is that it’s a fully inclusive sport, meaning all age ranges and abilities can take part side-by-side – and to ensure it’s fully accessible (and fun!) for children with additional needs, there are a range of adapted bikes to suit all requirements.
It’s just a matter of choosing the right one for your child.

What types of adapted bicycles are out there?
There is an extensive range of cycles designed specifically to suit the needs of children with disabilities, but there are broadly four options available:
Two-wheeled tandems – these allow the adult to steer while the child helps with the pedalling.
Wheelchair tandems – these offer youngsters who have little or no movement the chance to get out and about on a bike.
Tricycles – balance can be a problem for anyone getting on a bike, and it’s exacerbated by some physical impairments. Trikes offer extra stability and come in both recumbent and upright styles.
Stabilisers – fitting stabilisers to a standard bike is always a good option for children who struggle on two wheels but don’t necessarily need a tricycle.

Where can I get advice & support?

Inclusive cycling specialists, Quest 88 have recently opened a Bike Shop and Adaptive Cycling hub in Shrewsbury. Quest 88 aim to create and support a community of cyclists, with and without additional needs. Every Wednesday, free weekly rides allow people of all ages and abilities to cycle in a safe and friendly environment. Regular advice sessions and extremely friendly and knowledgeable staff, make it a great place to gain lots of information and support from experts and peers alike.

The National Cycling Charity offers help and support for Inclusive Cyclists, including guides to adaptive cycles and an Inclusive Cycling Directory. Finally, Wheels for Wellbeing also offers advice and support and runs regular drop-in inclusive cycling sessions.

If you know a child with additional needs who has benefitted from getting out and about on a bike, I'd love to read your comments below!
Until next time, Jada x


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