Article by Average Joe Cyclist
All credits to electricbikeblog.com
This post describes the health benefits of electric bikes, based on scientific research and on the experiences of electric bike riders. These health benefits include getting significant levels of exercise, improving cardiac health, improving blood sugar levels, strengthening muscles, bones and joints, building confidence, being able to keep cycling as we age, and preventing serious diseases. My next post explains how you can use an electric bike to get fitter and healthier.
#1 Health Benefit of Electric Bikes: Health Benefits Resulting from Sustained Aerobic Exercise
Researchers have proven beyond dispute that exercising is the best thing we can do for our health – so much so that scientists have called exercise a miracle cure for the diseases that kill most of us, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and depression (Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. Exercise: The miracle cure and the role of the doctor in promoting it).
The American Heart Association affirms that exercise can help prevent heart disease and stroke, which are the No. 1 and No. 5 killers, respectively. Based on these acknowledged benefits, the US Governmentrecommends that we all get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise – or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise – per week. Remember that number, because much of this post is all about getting that 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise!
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention has found that about 80% of Americans fall short of this fairly modest goal. No wonder, given that most of us are so over-worked we don’t even have time to get enough sleep! Also, many people have health limitations that make certain kinds of exercise difficult to do.
Cycling has the potential to help many people meet the suggested exercise goals, especially if they use it as part of their everyday life, such as commuting to work. This time is going to be spent anyway, so we might as well get some benefit from it! However, not everyone can cycle, or cycle substantial distances, due to factors such as low levels of fitness, age-related limitations, steep hills, long distances, the need to transport children or groceries, etc. This is of course where ebikes can help. Electric bikes make cycling possible for a much wider range of people, by providing assistance up hills, with loads, over distances, etc. They make it possible for less fit people to bike commute long distances – and improve their fitness.
Of course, some people will object that cycling with assistance by definition does not provide exercise. Well, the fact is that pedelec bikes require pedaling at all times, and therefore do provide exercise. On these bikes, assistance only kicks in once you pedal, usually in proportion to how hard you pedal. Anyone who has ever done a challenging commute on an electric bike knows perfectly well that it provides a good workout. They also know that you can choose how much – or, crucially, how little – assistance you engage at any time. There is nothing to stop you turning off all assistance on flats and downhills, for example.
For those who do not have personal experience of the exercise one can get on an ebike, there is research out of Boulder, Colorado, to prove the point. A study entitled “Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode,” published in Eur J Appl Physiol., reported on the health benefits to sedentary people who started riding ebikes. Participants were loaned electric bikes and asked to ride them at a comfortable pace at least 3 times per week for at least 40 minutes per ride. This would provide just 2 hours of the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Still, as the participants were sedentary, it would at least be 2 hours more exercise per week than they were previously doing. This trial lasted for just 1 month, with the participants wearing GPS trackers and heart rate monitors. At the beginning and the end, a wide range of medical assessments were conducted.
Most participants were found to have cycled more than required, with several having biked about 50 percent more. This is of course attributable to the “fun factor” of ebiking. Participants reported that the ebike riding was “a blast.” William Byrnes, the study’s senior author, noted: “It’s exercise that is fun.” And as we all know, the key reason why most people give up on exercise programs is simply because most exercise programs are not fun.
The first key finding was that the ebike cyclists’ heart rates had averaged about 75% of their maximum. This level of exercise can be compared to brisk walking or to an easy jog. This shows that despite the electrical assist, the cyclists were getting precisely the kind of moderate workout that is recommended by the US Government to promote health and ward off diseases.
The other key findings included an improvement in blood sugar control. Given that diabetes is a significant threat to the health of sedentary people, this was an extraordinary benefit in just 4 weeks (Source: The Clinical and Public Health Challenges of Diabetes Prevention: A Search for Sustainable Solutions).
Participants were found to have significantly improved their aerobic fitness, and the findings showed a trend toward less body fat in the group. There were also trends for improvements in blood pressure. Not surprisingly, since the study ended, many of the participants have gone out and purchased electric bikes. My personal experience is that once you see the health benefits of ebikes, it is addictive.