How Cycling Can Support Children’s Mental Health

Children who have contacted Childline for help talk about the positive impact of cycling on their mental health.

February 10, 2022

News

Cycling has long been praised for its physical health benefits, but what benefits can it bring to your mental wellbeing?

This Children’s Mental Health Week we’re looking at the hugely positive impact cycling can have on your mental health, no matter what your age.

Children have worries just like adults do. In 2020/21 Childline delivered more than 200,000 counselling sessions with children and young people for support on issues including mental and emotional health, family problems, bullying and abuse. And just like adults, children need to find ways to help them cope and for some children, this is cycling.

Cycling gives children an opportunity to unwind, process their problems and enjoy the outdoors. As well as keeping them physically fit, it supports their mental wellbeing. Public Health England (2014) reported that being active makes most 5- to 11-year-olds feel happier (79%), more confident (72%), and more sociable (74%).

Some children who talked about cycling with Childline, mentioned that cycling helps them deal with anxiety. One girl, aged 16, said: “I always feel on edge and sometimes it leads to a panic attack. When I feel my anxiety getting worse, I go on a bike ride as it helps me to cope with my feelings.” A 16-year-old  boy said: “I have started cycling and find that it relieves my symptoms and when I am cycling it feels good to be free from anxiety.”

Cycling can help children to cope better with stressful situations in their lives. One 15-year-old boy with ADHD who struggles with angry outbursts told Childline: “I have tried lots of coping strategies but running and going out on my bike works best.” A girl aged 14 who was being bullied at school and online said: “Sometimes I find it hard to concentrate so the only thing that helps me to cope is riding my bike because it frees my mind when I am finding it hard to concentrate on things.”

As well as helping children cope with personal stresses and struggles, cycling can help bring families together. Two children experiencing family conflict at home both referred to cycling as something that helped ease the fighting. One seven-year-old boy said: “The only time the arguments and shouting stops is when we all go on a bike ride together.” Whilst a 16-year-old girl said: “My parents aren’t speaking, and it is making things at home stressful. The only time I feel ok is when I go cycling with my siblings and mum.”

Bikeability teaches children an essential life skill that gives them the practical skills they need to cycle confidently on our roads and the freedom to use cycling as a tool to support better mental health.

For more information on Children’s Mental Health week visit childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk.

For more information on Childline visit childline.org.uk.

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