Specialized have created a US non-profit 501c3 organization called The Specialized Foundation to fund research and programs based on the relationships between cycling, attention issues and learning.
It's a personal issue for Specialized founder Mike Sinyard, who said he has long struggled with ADHD symptoms himself and then later with his son, Anthony, who was prescribed Ritalin. Sinyard and Specialized are hopeful that exercise — or, more specifically, riding a bike — can be just the medicine children need.
"After Anthony’s diagnosis he was prescribed Ritalin, but the medication made him feel horrible," Sinyard said. "I encouraged Anthony to stop with 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."
An initial step of the Specialized Foundation was partnering with RTSG Neuroscience Consultants for research on whether riding a bike could be an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs to manage attention difficulties and symptoms of ADHD in children. The first study was carried out in Massachusetts with 47 middle school students. The study participants rode outdoors five days a week for 30 minutes before school, for one month. The study then examined cognitive, emotional and social levels before, during and after the program.
According to Specialized, the results found that cycling led to an increase in positive mood, improved attention and benefits in cognition.
“These findings are profound and have the potential to change the way we manage symptoms of children with attention deficit disorders/difficulties,” said Dr Lindsay Thornton, a sports psychologist with RSTG.
The long term goal of the Specialized Foundation is to determine a research-proven method for improving the learning environment with cycling.
“As a company of passionate riders, we intuitively recognize the benefits of exercise and cycling on our own abilities to focus, but we were astounded by the results of the study as a potential new symptom management tool for children and their families to consider,” Sinyard said. “As someone who is personally affected by and as a parent of a child diagnosed with ADHD, I hope this research provides new hope for children and their families managing attention deficit disorders and that it serves as a catalyst for prioritizing physical education in our schools.”
The Specialized Foundation has a website — www.Specialized.com/Foundation — and a social media hashtag: #PedalsOverPills.