Currently, there is gap in our understanding of the neurological basis of ADHD and the efficacy of various treatments options. Through our research activities, beginning with our first studies with RTSG Neuroscience Consultants in 2012, continuing to our current partnership with Stanford Medical School, we hope to bridge that gap and further advance the scientific knowledge of how cycling can enhance brain health and function, particularly for children struggling with ADHD and attention difficulties.
OUR INITIAL RESEARCH (RTSG NEUROSCIENCE CONSULTANTS)
Beginning in the fall of 2012, Specialized partnered with RTSG Neuroscience Consultants to conduct a series of studies aimed at understanding how cycling can positively affect student learning, health, and wellbeing—with a particular focus for those with learning differences such as ADHD. In our initial studies with middle school students, we measured changes in their cognitive, emotional/social, and physical well-being before, during, and after a month-long, five-days-a-week cycling program. This included monitoring changes in electrical brain activity, and what we discovered is that middle school students who participated in the biking program had improvements in attention and mood, as well as long-term cognitive performance, social relationships, and general emotional and physical health. Their brains showed faster information processing and positive changes in activation patterns, especially for those with attention difficulties. Even after just one bike ride, students with ADHD were less impulsive and made fewer mistakes on attention-related tasks.
We were encouraged by this, and our later studies were focused on whether the cycling-induced improvements in attention, cognitive function, and brain activation translated to improved academic performance. Again, we saw that students who successfully completed our biking program scored significantly higher on standardized math tests when compared with their peers who did not ride. Together, the findings from this research indicate that kids who incorporate biking into their school day are better prepared for learning, and they're both happier and healthier.
FOUNDATION-STANFORD RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP
Over the past several years, there has been a heightened interest in the connection between exercise and fitness as a method to improve brain function, and as a means of improving attention and concentration in children. A growing body of research has shown that exercise can lead to benefits, like improved thinking, greater happiness, decreased anxiety and depression, and better academic performance. In addition to this, studies have shown that moderate-to-vigorous exercise enhances executive and motor functioning, which are skills that are impaired in children with ADHD.
There remain significant gaps in our understanding of ADHD, however, and the role exercise plays in alleviating or reducing the core symptoms of ADHD, like inattention and impulsivity. And to date, there haven't been any large-scale, primary research studies conducted to specifically examine the unique advantages that cycling can provide over other forms of physical activity for kids with ADHD.
To address this gap, the Specialized Foundation has partnered with Dr. Allan Reiss, and his team at Stanford Medical School, to launch a research study to better understand the effects of cycling on brain function and cognition in children with ADHD. Through this multi-year collaboration, we'll explore how a range of cycling programs, differing in intensity, duration, and frequency, influence the brain and behavior, as well as symptoms of ADHD like concentration, attention, and inhibition in adolescents. And in the long term, we hope to use these finding to help doctors tailor cycling-specific interventions as a part of a comprehensive treatment program for ADHD.