What are the health benefits of riding e-bikes?June 6th 2020
The world is telling you that it’s time to get back on your bike! There’s no doubt about it, now is the perfect time to embrace a healthier lifestyle and use hygienic modes of transport, while maintaining our cleaner air quality, as we all aim to do what we can to protect ourselves and each other from coronavirus.
But what if you don’t feel fit enough to cycle at the moment, you’re worried that your commute is too long to take to two wheels, or maybe you’re simply tiring of the effort of riding a normal bike to your destination? An e-bike might be the answer.
How do e-bikes help?
At its core an e-bike is a simple pedal bike – something that so many of us have learned to ride during our childhood. You start, ride and finish a ride in exactly the same way; you just have the assistance of a motor that adds to the effort that you put in.
Find out more about e-bikes by reading our electric bike buying guide.
All e-bike electric motors are limited to 250W, and usually come with variable modes so they can offer different levels of assistance depending on your needs. The key word here is “assistance”, where the motor only kicks in when you pedal – so although definitely easier than an ordinary bike, you still get some exercise from using an e-bike.
Plus, e-bike motor assistance is limited to 25km/h (15.5mph) by law – after which it cuts out – which means that any concerns about going too fast or being out of control on a motorised bicycle are allayed.
On top of this, there’s the well-supported psychological benefits that come from being outdoors, where increased fresh air and sunlight exposure means that you can arrive at your destination invigorated, without feeling exhausted from a strenuous workout.
Wide health benefits
From a wider health perspective, e-bikes can appeal to a huge spectrum of people. There’s a common misconception that using an e-bike is cheating (when compared to using and ordinary bike), and consequently it doesn’t provide ample exercise.
To uncover this issue a little more closely, we looked into the research assessing the health benefits of e-bikes - how much exercise e-bike riders tend to do, and whether there are wider health issues to be had from using e-bikes. We consulted Ashley Cooper, Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health, at Bristol University.
His research has shown that in most cases, “moderate” physical activity is gained from the use of an e-bike, providing less intensity than conventional cycling, but more than walking. Importantly, riding an e-bike can improve the cardiorespiratory fitness of those who were previously inactive1.
“[E-biking] is not a no-exercise option,” says Cooper, “it’s a really great way of getting moderate-intensity activity”.
“They’re a good option for people for whom physical activity is important for better health, but who may be compromised by a clinical condition. For example, people with type 2 diabetes, which also [at time of this blog post publication] appears to be a risk factor for adverse COVID-19-related outcomes.”
Expanding on his research, Cooper says, “E-biking is viewed as an enjoyable form of physical activity to aid the self-management of type 2 diabetes. It may support people with type 2 diabetes to reduce their medication intake and in turn foster greater autonomy in managing the condition.”2
His comments hint towards how an e-bike can be the perfect solution for those that don’t have time to walk a required distance, or don’t feel fit enough to cycle long distances, alongside those who might have a pre-existing health condition that makes conventional cycling more difficult. Professor Cooper’s future research projects are set to expand on this by investigating how e-bikes could improve the physical activity of cancer survivors.
Alongside Cooper’s research, another 2019 paper backs up the theory that e-bikes deliver moderate-intensity exercise – even putting e-bikes on a par with ordinary bikes3. It tracked 10,000 people across seven European cities, and found those who rode traditional bikes and e-bikes amassed roughly the same amount of physical activity. In short, the impact of the pedal assistance was cancelled out by the longer distances and greater frequencies that those on e-bikes often rode.
The health benefits of e-bikes are therefore clearer than many might believe. For some, an e-bike delivers as much physical activity as an ordinary bike, and for others it can provide moderate intensity exercise greater than that delivered by brisk walking.
That’s the joy of an e-bike, it offers you as much assistance as you want or need, depending on your circumstances, truly representing an accessible route to becoming fitter and healthier whilst keeping our air clean and pollution low.
Check out our full range of electric bikes today.
1 Bourne et al. (2018). Health benefits of electrically-assisted cycling: a systematic review. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition & Physical Activity.
2 Searle A et al. (2019). Engagement in e-cycling and the self-management of type 2 diabetes. BJGP Open,.
3 Castro et al. (2019). Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non- cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities. Transportation research interdisciplinary perspectives. ResearchGate.