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Intense Aerobic Exercise Can Cut Behavioral Issues in School

Use of 'cybercycles' reduces classroom disruptions for children with autism, ADHD, other concerns

children at playground

MONDAY, Jan. 9, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Children with behavioral disorders might fare better at school if they get some exercise during the day, according to a study published online Jan. 9 in Pediatrics.

The researchers focused on children and teenagers with conditions that included autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression. They looked at whether structured exercise during the school day -- in the form of stationary "cybercycles" -- could help ease students' behavioral issues in the classroom. For seven weeks, 103 students used the stationary bikes during their usual gym class -- twice a week, for 30 to 40 minutes. Their classroom behavior was tracked and compared with a seven-week period without the bikes, when they had gym class as usual.

Overall, the researchers found, the students were better able to control their behavior in the classroom during the stationary-bike trial. The benefits were most apparent on the days they exercised, although there were some "carryover" effects on other days. Children were about one-third to 50 percent less likely to act out in class, compared to a seven-week period when they took standard gym classes.

"Aerobic cybercycling physical education shows promise for improving self-regulation and classroom functioning among children with complex behavioral health disorders," the authors write. "This school-based exercise intervention may significantly improve child behavioral health without increasing parental burden or health care costs, or disrupting academic schedules."

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