Cycle project tests kids' fitness, safety skills

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 09:00 12/04/2014

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Just how beneficial biking is for schoolchildren is being investigated by Manawatu researchers.

Primary school-aged children in Palmerston North will be the focus of a six-month pilot project aimed at uncovering the effects of regular exercise on a bike and improved understanding of cycle safety.

Massey University researchers Dr Carlene Starck, Dr Geoff Kira and Dr Steve Stannard will study between 30 and 60 year 3 and 4 classes at Roslyn School this year to measure pupils' progress after taking part in a cycle education programme.

"What we want to show is that cycling is improving their health and fitness," Starck said.

Children were tested on their fitness and physical state yesterday, with their height, heart rate, blood pressure and other factors measured to act as the baseline figures.

They will now be run through a programme, spanning two school terms, where the children will be taught the fundamentals of bike riding, bike care, road safety and the benefits of exercise by professionals from Sport Manawatu and Massey.

Stannard has been the driving force of the project, purchasing 30 bikes with his own money to be based at the school for students to use in class and be supervised during lunch time.

Starck said the plan is to extend the programme to other year levels, other schools and to engage the community with the project.

The children will be retested at the end of six months with the data and findings to be published. Having concrete statistics through tracking the schoolchildren's progress may act as leverage to lobby policy-makers about road safety concerns regarding children, Starck said.

"It'd be so cool if around every primary school there was some kind of safe zone to enable more children to ride to school," she said.

"And we'll be able to show that cycling is helping their health and that more kids should be on bikes and that it's going to benefit the community more."

Principal Joanne How said as a low-decile school Roslyn sometimes skipped opportunities related to cycling.

"A lot of our children don't have bikes, so when you get things like BikeWise our children miss out," she said. "I find a lot of our children are disadvantaged because they haven't got the opportunity and this a good way of doing something about this because it's promoting fitness and health."

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- Manawatu Standard

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