Kids love to move, and that’s one reason many schools have incorporated physical activity in the classroom. Now educators at Armstrong School District are taking this concept one step—and two pedals—further by incorporating under-desk bike pedals at some of their schools. With this simple addition, students can exercise while learning.

District health and wellness coordinator Devin Lorigan says the pedal units were bought with funds from the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant. The PEP grant program was developed as part of a fitness-integrated teaching initiative, an effort to incorporate exercise into classrooms, Lorigan says.

“We were looking at how to integrate fitness into our classrooms, and thought the pedals would be one way,” she says.

The desk pedals are exactly as they sound—a set of pedals small enough to fit under a school desk.  Children with pedals under their desk or computer table can work their legs while they work. Brought up to desk level, the pedals can also be used for arm exercises.

Students can pedal while they participate in regular classroom activities, and since the pedals are essentially noiseless, they don’t interfere with classroom instruction or activities. The pedals are completely portable, and can be moved from classroom to classroom simply.

“They are very mobile and extremely easy to use,” Lorigan says. “Studies show that children who are physically active learn more. And, obviously, physical activity is never a bad thing.”

Jocelyn Shoop, health and physical education teacher at Dayton Elementary School, says they bought 30 pedal sets for their building.

“I asked the teachers who wanted them for their classrooms, and they all jumped on it,” Shoop says.

Several of the pedal sets were placed in classrooms, and five are in the school’s reading center. The students can pedal while they read, rotating through stations so everyone gets a chance. The health and fitness room also features the pedal sets as part of its circuit-training setup.

Shoop says the desk pedals are popular with students, who often get restless, and teachers, who have to manage fidgety kids.

“Kids love to move, of course. Any time they can move, they love it,” she says.

The desk pedals also offer a simple solution for an indoor recess activity—a real plus during the long cold winter that hit the area this year.

“They are great for inside recess. We can easily move them around from classroom to classroom, and the pedals keep the kids moving without too much space or preparation,” Shoop says.

Like Lorigan, Shoop shares the research linking exercise to learning.

“Research shows that exercise helps stimulate the brain. If the kids are reading and exercising, it helps them learn better,” she says.