Archive Post from August 21st 2016
It’s old news to most of us that active kids are healthy kids, and that when kids establish healthy lifestyles in childhood they go on to lead healthier lives as adults. But according to a recent consensus statement published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the benefits of physical activity for children extend far beyond health and wellness.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the consensus statement, made by a multidisciplinary panel of twenty-four experts and researchers from eight different countries at the Copenhagen Consensus Conference in May, expressed support for the fact that, “physical activity before, during and after school promotes scholastic performance in children and youth,” adding that regular exercise and physical activity are also “beneficial to brain structure, brain function and cognition.”
But the benefits of youth sports and activities don't stop there. Exercise, especially goal-oriented, skills-based activities such as swimming, and mountain biking, and soccer, help build confidence, encourage strong ties within peer groups, and help teach valuable life lessons such as perseverance, work ethic, and healthy competition. Such benefits are so profound and transformative that the statement goes so far as to suggest that, “time taken away from academic lessons in favour of physical activity has been shown to not come at the cost of scholastic performance.” Not necessarily a recommendation we’re accustomed to hearing in discussions of education policy, but one that likely resonates with anyone who participated in youth sports, or who has witnessed first hand the transformative effects of sports on the lives of children.
In light of these recommendations, made by a reputable group of experts and published in a reputable scientific journal, shouldn’t parents, school districts and educators be more empowered to include sports-based programming, both during and after school? If this consensus statement merely confirms years of common sense and first-hand observation on the part of parents, teachers and coaches around the world, why are there still barriers to getting kids outside and into sports?
Put very simply: it’s the money honey.
According to an NPR story published last year, the costs associated with participation in youth sports have skyrocketed in recent years; parents who may have been avid participants in a multitude of sports as kids now find themselves facing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in participation fees in order to join private club teams, costs that may not be realistic for many low-income families. And as public - and private - schools face massive downward pressure on budgets, school sports and after-school programs often take the brunt of necessary funding cuts, in many cases eliminating the only cost-effective sports options for many low-income families.
A 2015 study conducted by NPR in conjunction with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation confirmed these trends, finding that one in three parents reported cost as the biggest challenge to getting their kids active and involved in sports. And this trend doesn’t just affect children: the study found that only 15% of low-income adults surveyed regularly participated in sports, as compared to 37% of higher-income earners.
At Trips For Kids, we believe we can do better than that.
For almost thirty years our nonprofit has worked to get underserved and at-risk Marin County youth outside and into sports. Since 1988 we have transformed lives using a variety of cycling and mountain-biking based programs, and, in doing so, have helped over 30,000 Bay Area children cultivate a lifelong appreciation for living active lifestyles, an appreciation for the environment, and - most importantly - a love for bikes.
Our flagship trail rides program helps city-bound children get out of the urban jungle and onto bikes, in many cases serving as their first - and only - venture out of their native urban environment and into nature. Through our Earn-a-Bike and Mobile Bike Workshops programs, kids have the opportunity to learn valuable vocational and trade skills after school by refurbishing and repairing donated and used bikes. And through our Re-Cyclery retail bike shop in San Rafael, donated bikes and bike parts are recycled, refurbished, and resold, helping to fund our programs and mitigate waste.
While we can’t change school budgets and private club fees, we feel that we can - and must - do our part to make sure that our most vulnerable children aren’t being left behind by rising costs and funding cuts. (And we think that doing so with bikes doesn’t hurt either.)
If you’re a Marin County cyclist, sports lover, nature lover, or nonprofit volunteer, and you’d like to help support the health and well-being of children in your community, you can help by making a cash donation, an in-kind donation of bikes or biking equipment and supplies, or by volunteering with us on one of our upcoming rides.