Desk cycle study

Description of the innovation

All children in the intervention groups were given access to a desk cycle during maths lessons. A desk cycle is a small, portable pedal unit which fits under a desk allowing a person to pedal whilst doing work. The units work on a magnetic resistance so are quiet. The children were able to decide for themselves how they used the cycles (ie, constant pedaling, or pedaling for only part of a lesson). The intervention lasted 15 weeks, starting at the end of January 2018 and continuing until May half-term. The main objective of the evaluation was to investigate whether teacher reports of children’s hyperactivity changed in any way as a result of using the desk cycle. Of additional interest was whether there were any changes in the fitness levels of the children, or their attainment in maths.

Summary of the evaluation

Four schools in Stoke-on-Trent participated in the evaluation. The 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation ranks Stoke-on-Trent as the thirteenth most deprived Local Authority in England, and all four schools are located in areas of high social deprivation.

The study involved 99 children from Year 6 and Year 5 classes. The children in each class with the highest hyperactivity scores were selected to be in the sample and classes were chosen at random to be intervention group or control group classes.

The measurements used were the hyperactivity scale of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), waist-to-height ratio, the time to complete the daily mile, and scores for the 2017 Year 6 SATs arithmetic paper or the Year 5 Maths Hub arithmetic paper, depending on the age of the child.

Summary of findings

Overall, the study showed positive effect sizes for waist-to-height ratio (+0.15), time to complete the daily mile (+0.11) and SDQ hyperactivity scale (+0.93). Pupils in the intervention group had a median reduction of two points on the 10-point teacher-reported hyperactivity scale in contrast to a median reduction in score of 0 for the control group pupils. However there were negative effect sizes for maths progress in both Year 6 (-0.52) and Year 5 (-0.16).

Limitations of the study include the small sample size of 99 children, difficulty reliably determining how far the children had cycled, and lack of prior research in this area (meaning a literature review proved to be very difficult). The 15-week trial period was also quite short so a longer study is required to produce more reliable data.

Lead school

  • Crescent Academy, Stoke-on-Trent

Main findings

The study showed positive effect sizes for:

  • waist-to-height ratio = +0.15
  • time to complete daily mile = +0.11
  • SDQ hyperactivity sale = +0.93

But negative effect sizes for maths progress:

  • Year 6 = -0.52
  • Year 5 = -0.16

Download the protocol document