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Specialized funds biking research, programs for kids

Published March 25, 2015

MORGAN HILL, Calif. (BRAIN) — Specialized has formed a nonprofit arm to fund research and programs that show cycling's positive effect on children suffering from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.

Last year, Specialized sponsored research and pilot programs at middle schools across the U.S. The results prompted company founder Mike Sinyard to establish The Specialized Foundation, which will work closely with schools and their local bike shops to implement cycling curriculum in their physical education programs.

"We have all personally experienced how riding has improved our own lives," said Sinyard. "Riding has significantly improved my life. As a kid I struggled to manage ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) symptoms and the inability to stay focused was something I had grown to accept as normal. My son, Anthony, had the same challenges when he was younger and was also diagnosed with ADHD. After Anthony's diagnosis, he was prescribed Ritalin, but the medication made him feel horrible. I encouraged Anthony to stop the medication and start riding. We began to notice that our ADHD symptoms would dissipate after riding and it was this discovery that began the journey to find solutions for ADHD symptoms through cycling."

Sinyard linked up with leading scientists in the field.

The RTSG Neuroscience Consultants measured the effects of cycling on the attention capacity of 47 students ages 11 to 14 years old from Kennedy and Wilson Middle Schools in Natick, Mass. Participants biked outdoors five days per week for 30 minutes before school for one month. The project examined cognitive, emotional/social, as well as balance and physical changes before, during and after the program.

In their 61-page report, researchers noted that a single biking session "significantly improved measures of executive attention in ADHD subjects. Specifically, ADHD subjects were more accurate and faster on the Simon test after a single episode of exercise than if no exercise had occurred. Accuracy on the TrailMaking test, a measure of attention and executive function, also increased after exercise."

Longer term, researchers found biking led to an increase in positive mood and the participant's ability to understand their own feelings. Behavioral measures of attention also were up after riding and response times to a number of cognitive tests were longer.

"These findings are profound and have the potential to change the way we manage symptoms of children with attention deficit disorders or difficulties," said Dr. Lindsay Thornton, a sports psychologist with RTSG specializing in brain imaging techniques, sports science and physical performance measures.

For more about the program, go to specialized.com/foundation or see the videos about the program at youtu.be/XA5nfG6KxA0 and www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi1DA30Up-g. You can also follow on social media at #pedalsoverpills.

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