Parents of couch potato-esque teenagers can now quote some hard science as they attempt to lever their charges off the sofa and onto their bikes while suggesting that the youngsters will thank them for it in later life.
An American study of 3345 children which examined the relationship between increased physical activity in adolescence and adult weight status has concluded that there is indeed a direct link between exercise in adolescence – including cycling – and lack of obesity in adulthood.
According to the study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the likelihood of being an overweight adult was substantially reduced by performing certain wheel-related activities such as roller-blading, skate-boarding and cycling more than four times per week.
The research looked at the study group's after-school physical activities and in a follow-up survey five years later, found a quantifiable relationship between the frequency of exercise and the prevalence of obesity in young adulthood
“Each weekday that adolescents participated in physical education, decreased the odds of being an overweight adult by 5%, with participation in all five weekdays of physical education decreasing the odds by 28%,” the study found. However while such teens were more than twice as likely to maintain a normal weight as adults compared to their less active peers, no impact was detected when physical activities were performed fewer than three times per week.
So in a world where, for a lot of children, the attractions of games consoles, television and computers far outweigh the prospect of getting hot, sweaty and out of breath on a bike ride, it seems that many parents will continue struggle to convince their offspring to use that expensive mountain bike gathering dust in the garage often enough for it to make a difference in later life.