Like many kids, Mike Sinyard struggled with ADHD growing up. Unlike many kids, Mike grew up and became the Founder and CEO of Specialized Bicycle Components, one of the top 3 bike manufacturers in the US. Though he learned to manage the inability to stay focused and being easily distracted, he noticed that cycling muted those symptoms and improved his concentration. After reading Bicycling Magazine’s article “Riding is my Ritalin“, Mike and Specialized joined RTSG Neuroscience Consultants in investigating the link between aerobic exercise and concentration.
In a pilot program with 47 students from two Massachusetts middle schools, students with ADHD rode outside for 30 minutes, five days a week, before school for five months. The project examined cognitive, emotional and social changes, as well as balance and physical changes before, during, and after the program. The results showed that after riding, kids experienced increased attention span and boosted mood. During the course of the study, the kids’ fitness and BMI improved as well.
With these encouraging results, the Specialized Foundation launched in 2014. Its ongoing mission is “to increase accessibility to cycling to aid youth in personal development and education”. The two key areas the Foundation focuses on are primary scientific research and school-based programs.
Though there is a strong correlation between exercise and benefits like improved thinking, greater happiness, decreased anxiety and depression and better academic performance, there’s still more to learn about ADHD and how exercise might be used in conjunction with, or as a replacement for, other treatment options. To continue and improve research in this field the Specialized Foundation has partnered with Dr. Allan Reiss 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 its Riding for Focus school program, Specialized has donated more than 240 bikes so 15 middle schools could get kids ages 11 to 14 riding at least 20 minutes, 3 days a week, for 6-8 weeks. Riding for Focus aims for measurable improvements in academic performance, fitness and behavior, long-term social and health outcomes and a reduction in core symptoms of ADHD. Specialized is committed to developing programs that are safe, fun, focused on fitness and that reward effort and encourage independence.
If you’re interested in having Specialized partner with your school to get kids with ADHD riding, talk to your school administration and apply for a Specialized Foundation grant. Specialized will provide bikes, safety equipment, program curriculum and training for key staff. Applications are being accepted through March 24 for the 2017/18 school year.