INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – More than one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese and research shows physical activity in schools plays a critical role in changing the trend.
Non-profit organization Nine13Sports is helping fight childhood weight gain and inactivity by bringing bike-riding to children in school districts across Central Indiana.
“We saw a need and we had a passion to get kids active and moving in a different way and we saw an opportunity,” says Tom Hanley, founder and Executive Director of Nine13Sports. “We realized early on that we couldn’t expect the kids to come to us, we had to go to them, so we built the whole program around going into the schools and providing turn-key programming.”
Nine13 operates a Kids Riding Bikes program where it brings eight bikes to schools once a week for five weeks. Each student spends 12 to 15 minutes on the bike before rotating to the next group. The beach cruiser bikes have one gear and no hand breaks and are made stationary on trainers, hooked up to Computrainers that track each student digitally.
“While the students are actually racing on the bikes, we’re able to see how fast they’re going, how far they’ve gone, how many watts they’re putting out and where they’re at on the course.”
The kids work to complete 0.2 miles as fast as they can. After a short break to catch their breath, the kids do the same distance again.
“It was hard to do,” says George Buck Elementary School #94 third-grader, Honesty Daniels.
Nine13 works on a ‘fee-for-service’ based on a sliding scale with schools and youth organizations. They help schools write a grant and find a sponsor or a donor to subsidize the cost.
“We’ll subsidize up to about 60% of the programming costs, then we’ll work with the schools to find the remaining portions,” says Hanley. “We’re typically working with the schools to help them find $2,000 to bring in the program for five full weeks of programming.”
Nine13 interacts with 600 students a week and will have 4,000 unique interactions with students across Central Indiana in 2014. Once school is out, the organization works with Boys & Girls Club of Indianapolis to provide summer programming.
“Nine13 provides a service that we could not have without them,” says George Buck Elementary Wellness Teacher Terry Small. “For some kids, this is the only experience they get on a bicycle — in fact, this morning I found out three of my students who are all in the same family have never been on a bicycle before.”
In those instances, Hanley helps students pedal for the short test-distance and gives encouragement along the way.
The Kids Riding Bikes program is made for children ages 8 to 18.
“When I first got on the bike, I thought it was a competition, but then I realized it was just to help you exercise,” says George Buck Elementary third-grader Ava Kendrick.