Getting your family out and about over the colder months will set them up for a lifetime of embracing the changing seasons. By encouraging safe cycling measures such as being visible, keeping on top of bike maintenance and wrapping up warm, children will relish the opportunity to get outdoors whatever the weather.
1. Boost your children’s brain power and concentration
It can be tempting on a Sunday morning in December when the temperature has dipped to plonk your child down in front of the TV and curl up with a good book. But for a head-start on Monday morning, research suggests that cycling increases mental activity, connectivity in the brain and improves concentration. This is due to a number of reasons, with the increased blood flow promoting many of the improvements. Children, much like adults, can feel the impacts of a winter spent indoors, so regular exercise on the weekend or a cycle to school can positively impact their education over winter.
2. Improve their sleep
You’re probably well aware of what happens when your little one is sedentary for too long, with little stimulation and no exercise. Well, there’s nothing like a refreshing bike ride on a cold winter‘s day to ensure a restful evening and this is especially true for children. A balance should be struck, as making them overtired can in fact make it harder for them to fall asleep. But regular exercise continued throughout the winter can contribute to a healthy sleeping pattern.
3. It’s quieter
In the summer, parks and trails are brimming with families out on bike rides, getting ice cream and enjoying the sunshine. Cycling with your family throughout winter however means you may well have those trails all to yourself! With less people holidaying and more people staying home, you can revel in the fact that you’ve embraced the elements with your little ones and had a great day out together.
4. Less sick days
We know what children are like for bringing bugs home, and no doubt they may want to avoid going into school if it means a day curled up on the sofa. However if their symptoms are above the neck, research suggests that gentle exercise can help push white blood cells into circulation where they can eliminate viruses and bacteria. In addition, epinephrine is produced which is a natural decongestant and will banish snotty noses at least temporarily. Symptoms below the neck, however, (think a chesty cough) and a lie down might be on the family agenda instead.
5. Boost their mood
Cycling as a family during winter – whilst it may not seem it at the time as you wrestle them into coats and gloves to get them out of the door – will greatly improve your kids’ mood. Much like most exercise, riding a bike produces endorphins. Just 20-30 minutes of cycling is enough to produce these hormones which will have your little one beaming for the rest of the day (though avoiding tantrums is not guaranteed). Even if they are prone to being a little bit grumpy, the fresh air will clear their head and give them an outlet allowing them to engage with the family in a positive way.
6. Build resilience
Whilst it’s unlikely to happen on the school run or a gentle Sunday morning wheel to a cafe, cycling in winter can teach children to push past feelings of discomfort and keep going for their own enjoyment. Of course there’s a fine line for the younger cyclist, and you should know their boundaries. But expanding their comfort zone in a safe and supportive environment, out on a bike ride in the wind and rain all in the name of fun, will provide them with a skill for life. By building resilience in this setting, they can then apply this skill in other areas of their lives.
7. Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
Winter can be difficult whatever your age with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affecting both children and adults. This can result in feelings of fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression and disruption to sleep, which further exacerbates negative feelings and problems in school as a result. Over the winter, your family might be more prone to staying indoors as the days shorten and temperatures drop but getting out on your bike together will provide some much needed sunlight, which can reduce the symptoms of SAD greatly.
Riding your bike as a family in winter can feel hard. Pulling on scratchy jumpers whilst they complain of how cold it is will be a distant memory when they’re racing along a muddy track in the frosty sunshine, inhaling a hot chocolate at the end of the ride that feels like it was really earned. There are lots of benefits to cycling throughout winter with your little ones, so don’t put those bikes away just yet. Also, ensure you’re giving them a quick hose down on your return too as they’ll likely be caked in mud and you’ll want them ready to go for the next chilly ride.