New online tool launched to get children cycling in bid to tackle obesity

Nearly three quarters of all parents believe teaching children to cycle is an important life skill (Tim Ireland/PA) Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Children across Britain will have the chance to learn to ride a bike in a new initiative aiming to help combat childhood obesity.

Launched by HSBC UK and British Cycling, Ready Set Ride is an online resource built for children from as young as 18 months to eight years old and will introduce youngsters to bikes and the benefits of exercise.

Government statistics show nearly a third of children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese, with younger generations becoming obese at earlier ages and staying so for longer.

In 2014/15 it was estimated the NHS in England spent £5.1 billion on overweight and obesity-related ill-health.

TV presenter Helen Skelton is a supporter of the campaign and called for more parents to get out on their bikes with their children.

The mother-of-two said: “There’s a lot of pressure on modern parents to do so much, but this is an online tool that gives you examples and ideas.

“All the little games, my kids love. They’re not thinking ‘oh this is good for me, I’m doing a physical activity which is going to help me balance on my bike’, they’re thinking ‘I want to beat my mum’ and it’s a game. And as soon as you put a time clock on it, that’s the best thing ever because it’s a race.

“Parents are so stressed and frazzled because they are being pulled in a million directions, and this is easy.

“Ultimately, the goal is to get kids off the games and onto their bikes.”

One of Ms Skelton’s biggest television moments was when she trekked 500 miles to the South pole, travelling part of the way on an ice bike, in 2012.

“It wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had,” she said.

“But kids like bikes, and I was making a programme for kids and trying to get them excited about the world and it was just a bit of a fun, ‘lets try it and see what happens’ kind of thing and I had this crazy big fat-tyred bike that we took to the South Pole.

“I don’t want people to think cycling is just middle-aged men in lycra, it isn’t. There are people all over the world at all levels.”

New research shows a third (33%) of parents said their child cannot ride a bike.

This comes just months after the Government’s publication Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action called for “more to encourage children to be active every day”.

The YouGov poll of 6426 adults, of which 1,480 were parents of children aged 18 or under, also showed almost half of mothers across the country (45%) have not rode a bike in the past year and neither have over a third (34%) of fathers.

Despite those statistics, nearly three quarters (74%) of all parents believe teaching children to cycle is an important life skill.

Ready Set Ride is designed to be used at home, within schools and by any individual who wants to help children learn to ride.

The tool breaks down learning to ride a bike into three easy to follow steps: Prepare 2 Ride, Balance and Pedals.

Each of the steps is supported by games and activities to develop a child’s skills both on and off the bike, and is suitable for children as young as 18 months.

Julie Harrington, British Cycling chief executive, said: “We can’t turn Britain into a great cycling nation without first equipping our children with the vital skills they need to ride a bike from a young age.

“We want families, as well as schools, to introduce pedalling to playtime and be part of a child’s journey as they learn to ride, helping them to become confident and happy cyclists for life.”