The program is called Read and Ride, and it's making kids smarter and healthier at the same time.
Scott Ertl was reading a book while riding a stationary bike at the gym when he had an idea.
Like many busy adults, the only time he really got to read was when he squeezed it in while on an exercise bike.
Ertl was an elementary school counselor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the experience got him thinking, "I bet a bunch of kids would find it fun to read while exercising ... we could get some exercise bikes and give it a shot."
The principal at his school, Ward Elementary, was on board, so he hatched a plan and put it in motion.
The experiment started with a single bike in the corner of a classroom.
The solo bike was so well received that Ertl knew they needed more.
With the help of Craigslist and garage sales, he outfitted an entire spare classroom with stationary exercise bikes.
Teachers signed their classes up for 15- to 20-minute blocks of time in the bike room, and students brought a book or picked up an educational magazine. The program was dubbed Read and Ride.
The kids loved it, and they were reading and moving more.
The school wanted to know if there were real learning benefits attached to Read and Ride. They compiled data that showed that reading test scores and proficiency were up — and the more time students spent in the Read and Ride room, the better they did on state reading tests.
Read and Ride programs now exist (at least informally) in 30 states across the country, and educators all over are getting behind the trend. They aren't just using exercise bikes — under-desk ellipticals, something called Bouncy Bands, and exercise balls used as chairs are showing up in classrooms, too.
As an added bonus, these types of exercises are especially good for students who are, um, a little less gifted in the athletic department (*raises own hand*). Since the rider controls the speed and intensity, each student can set their own pace, and there's no scrutiny or pressure — and no one ever gets picked last. Score!
Most Read and Ride programs get their bevy of stationary bikes via donation programs. If you've got an exercise bike collecting dust in your garage, consider finding out if your favorite school would like to have it donated.
This program has been so inspiring that it has expanded internationally!
At the Europe Region Medical Command in Sembach, Germany, they're using these portable movement machines in a pilot initiative based on this program.
And it looks like the kids are enjoying it just as much.
"The teachers said that they're already getting a positive change in attitude towards reading," SSG Carlos Molinares says in the video below.
Check it out: