BBC News

Sustrans 'Bike It' programme extended for two years

image captionEdwin Poots said activities like cycling could improve both physical and mental health

A programme aimed at encouraging children to cycle to school is to be extended for another two years, the health minister has announced.

The Sustrans 'Bike It' programme, funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA), offers a range of cycling activities to pupils.

Eight schools in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust area are currently participating in the scheme.

The PHA plans to increase the number of participating schools to 24 by 2014.

It will also continue to support those schools already in the scheme. A similar scheme runs in the Belfast area.

Speaking about the programme, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "It is crucial for the population of Northern Ireland, especially our children, to be informed about the benefits of physical activity.

"Not only is it an important element in contributing to maintaining a healthy weight, but it can improve our mental health by helping prevent depression and promoting positive self-esteem."

'Bike It' school-based activities included lessons, assemblies, poster competitions, on-road cycle training, bike maintenance workshops, after-school bike clubs, cycle skills sessions and special cycle to school days.