Children who cycle or walk to school demonstrate a measurable increase in concentration that lasts for up to four hours, a Danish study has found.
The survey, part of a project named 'Mass Experiment 2012', looked at nearly 20,000 Danish children from the ages of five to 19.
The project aimed to find the connection between diet, exercise and concentration.
To the surprise of Niels Egelund of Aarhus University in Denmark, who conducted the research, the effect of exercise was greater than that of diet:
"The results showed that having breakfast and lunch has an impact, but not very much compared to having exercised," he told AFP.
"As a third-grade pupil, if you exercise and bike to school, your ability to concentrate increases to the equivalent of someone half a year further in their studies," he added.
“I believe that deep down we were naturally and originally not designed to sit still.
“We learn through our head and by moving. Something happens within the body when we move, and this allows us to be better equipped afterwards to work on the cognitive side.”
According to the Guardian, in 2011 only 1% of primary and 2% of secondary school children cycled to school.
And of course it's often the case that the schools don't help - we brought to your attention the case of Sam O'Shea, who was aged 11 when he was banned from riding to his school in Portsmouth, with staff at St Paul’s Primary School citing a lack of storage space and dangerous roads around the school as the reason for their stance, even though Sam’s mother, Angela, spent months arguing that Sam's one-mile journey, almost all on cycle paths, was safe, a view supported by an official risk assessment.
And school sports are on the wane too - a Department for Education study found that across Years 1 – 13, only 55% of pupils participated
in just three hours of PE and out of hours school sport during the 2009/10 academic year - and that was an increase on previous levels.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.