The rising number of obesity in children and the decreasing interest in reading—a valuable life-skill—has been alarming. There are a number of culprits: not-so-healthy food advertisements geared towards children, longer time spent on screens such as the TV, tablets, or smartphones, and simply the lack of physical activity in kids. However, healthcare professionals, educators, and parents are not throwing in the towel just yet, especially when smart ideas come up.
One of those smart ideas is to incorporate physical activity while in the classroom. Instead of sitting in school for most of their day, why not let kids learn while moving?
That’s exactly the idea behind Read and Ride, a program that encourages children to sit and pedal on exercise bikes while they read.
It all started with elementary school counselor Scott Ertl, M.Ed., who was reading a book while riding a stationary bike at the gym. He thought that kids would find it fun to read while exercising. The principal in his school, Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, thought it was worth a shot.
They started with one bike stationed in a corner of a classroom that kids can use if they need to get rid of extra stimulation during the day. Eventually, the school had an entire classroom filled with donated exercise bikes that the kids hop on to for 20 to 30 minutes a day as a reward. And it has been a big help to kids in more ways than one.
Results from the school’s comprehensive data gathered in 2010 and 2011 showed that the Read and Ride program does indeed benefit the children not just in the academic level but also physical. Here are some benefits of the program:
It promotes the love for reading: Children had a more positive response when asked if they liked to read. More kids who participated in the program also had more time for reading compared to kids who did not participate.
It helps increase reading comprehension. Reading comprehension of the third, fourth, and fifth grade students who spent more time on exercise bikes had an 83-percent increase in reading proficiency. Other kids scored only an average of 41-percent increase.
It aids in increasing the literacy rate among kids. The literacy rate of the students also increased to 118 points just by participating in the program for 20 minutes three times a week, compared to 71 points in literacy-rate growth of students who didn’t participate.
The best thing about it? The kids enjoyed and loved reading and riding, too.
Since its inception in 2009, the Read and Ride program has reached 30 states across the U.S. Some schools have even used a variety of exercise equipment such as under-desk ellipticals, exercise balls used as chairs, and Bouncy Bands (loops made from heavy-duty rubber installed under desks or chairs that the kids can “wiggle while they work”). Visit the Read and Ride website to know more about the program.