Did you know that there are benefits to riding an adaptive bicycle beyond having fun and creating priceless memories? These benefits include: bone growth, strengthening of anti-gravity muscles, development of hand/eye coordination, opportunity for cognitive growth, respiratory activity, development of head & trunk control, social acceptance and improved self-esteem. It’s good for you and fun too! Below we will explore the top 3 benefits gained while riding an adaptive bicycle.
Exercise is crucial for overall health. Its benefits range beyond the physical positives of cardiovascular, strength, and bone/joint health but also include the mental health and good feeling that comes with exercise. For children with special needs, participating in an exercise program can be very difficult with commercially available equipment. Now available on the market are bicycles that have been designed to accommodate children with minimal to maximal postural support needs. They can be used as a stationary or an outdoors bicycle (even both). Adaptive bicycles provide a means for aerobic exercise and cardiovascular health. Regular exercise is also recommended to strengthen the pulmonary system. The contract and release of the muscles helps to circulate blood and oxygen throughout the body for increased circulation/blood flow. This can be a component in a treatment plan for edema management if needed. Circulation and breathing are problem areas for many children with special needs; why not have fun and strengthen at the same time? On a side note, exercise helps to keep the digestive system more regular and physical activity has been known to aid in better quality sleep and for longer durations.
Range of Motion and Activity Tolerance:
Riding a bicycle is a great way to work on range of motion. With the distractions of being outside it may be tolerated better as well. The benefits of being able to move easier throughout the range of motion are tremendous. It can make dressing, bathing, and toileting easier, potentially decrease pain, and assist with long term tone management. Riding a bicycle is a great way to increase tolerance for sitting upright. It is fun and engaging. This means is generally better tolerated than sitting on the edge of the mat/bed in the therapy gym or at home. There is a whole world outside to see and explore. Increased tolerance for sitting is crucial for lung function; it helps to open the chest for breathing and allows for better regulation of blood pressure. Any upright activity helps to strengthen antigravity muscles and aid in digestive health. Additional endurance for sitting helps translate into better arousal and attention at school. As a child’s trunk and head control get better, the amount of energy used to maintain this posture lessens and makes it easier to concentrate on cognitive tasks. This can also carry over into better access for driving a power wheelchair, accessing a computer or communication device, or increased attention to the environment.
It is in a child’s nature to want to explore, have fun and generally just to have an unharnessed amount of curiosity about life and the world. Children begin to explore their environment and learn very early in life. Movement is crucial for cognitive development. For children with special needs, this movement component may be more difficult. It is imperative that a child is offered some way to independently move and explore. It can be through a power wheelchair, self-propelled chair, scooting, bunny hop, crawling, rolling or by bicycle. Movement and cognition are linked hand in hand as are movement and hand-eye coordination/visual perception. One learns to perceive and visually process their surrounding through movement. For example, a child learns how close they are to the wall or table after bumping into it. Movement is so important for these higher level skills to develop to their full potential while adding significance to the environment and its lessons. Finally, social acceptance and emotional health are key to developing a positive sense of self. By being able to go out and ride a bicycle with peers and family members, a new group is opened up for a child and a sense of belonging emerges. They are able to participate in a “typical” activity with others. Riding a bicycle is an age appropriate activity at all ages that is healthy throughout the lifespan and provides a sense of accomplishment, purpose and success for the rider. Adaptive bicycles are a wonderful addition for an active outdoors family, because it truly allows for everyone to be included.
All of these benefits serve to increase overall health and well-being while helping to develop a higher self-esteem. Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an hour of aerobic exercise/activity each day for children! What better way than to have fun on a bicycle?