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Study Finds Cybercycling Improves Classroom Functioning For Children With Behavior Disorders

Adding aerobic exercise on virtual-reality “cybercyling” stationary bikes to the school routine appears to help children with complex behavior disorders significantly improve self-regulation and classroom functioning, according to a study in the February 2017 Pediatrics.  For the randomized controlled trial, “Cybercycling Effects on Classroom Behavior in Children With Behavioral Health Disorders: An RCT,” (published online Jan. 9), 103 students at a therapeutic day school diagnosed with autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and/or mood disorders were randomly assigned by classroom to use the bikes twice a week during 30-40 minute physical education (PE) classes. Over seven weeks, children gradually increased their riding time and intensity. Overall, children in the intervention group, who ranged in age from 7 to 16, displayed up to 51 percent less disruptive behaviors than during the control period, with the effect particularly strong on the days they participated in the cybercycling class.  On those days, disruptive behaviors dropped more than 70 percent, while children were also 43 percent less likely to need to be removed from class for disciplinary reasons. Prior to the study, existing PE efforts at the school were not successful at engaging a majority of children in extended bouts of aerobic exercise, which the authors said is not uncommon for children with behavior disorders who may be dealing with sensory processing issues, delayed motor skills and related challenges. They said their findings suggest that cybercycling during PE can significantly improve child behavioral health by successfully engaging children in aerobic exercise without increasing parental burden, health care costs, or disrupting academic schedules.

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