eBikes & eTrikes Provide Same Fitness Benefits As Non-Assisted Counterparts

The role of the e-bike in promoting health and fitness is comparable to that of a conventional bicycle. This was reported by researchers of the University of Basel in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. In particular, overweight and untrained individuals can benefit from riding an e-bike.

The starting point for the pilot study was the Bike to Work campaign, which has been running in Switzerland for ten years now and invites commuters to switch to their bicycles or e-bikes every year for a month. Almost 65,000 cyclists took part this year.

A research group at the Department of Sport, Exercise and Health at the University of Basel examined how the exercise intensity on e-bikes compares to conventional bicycles. They conclude that training with an e-bike is by no means less effective, but has comparable health benefits as regular bicycling. Furthermore, the researchers found that even after a relatively short training period of four weeks improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness were achieved.

Oxygen uptake as indicator for cardiorespiratory fitness

To conduct the study, the researchers recruited about 30 volunteers who were considered untrained overweight individuals (body mass index of 28-29). In preparation of the intervention, the participants were thoroughly examined. The oxygen uptake capacity (VO2) was used as decisive criterion for the evaluation of cardiorespiratory fitness. VO2 measures the body’s ability to uptake and utilize oxygen.

The participants then rode a distance of at least 6 kilometers on at least three days per week. While one half was riding on a conventional bike, the other half was commuting on an e-bike. There were no specifications regarding the speed and intensity of the ride. Some of the test subjects were wearing a heart monitor and a GPS device.

After a month, the participants had their health tested again and it became apparent that both groups had developed comparably well in their fitness – measured by their oxygen uptake capacity. If this improvement is maintained permanently, the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases to a clinically relevant extent. Also, the heart worked more efficiently after the four-week training.

Preventive potential of e-bikes

Furthermore, the study shows that the participants of the e-bike group were on average traveling at higher speeds and showed higher daily elevation gain. “This indicates that the e-bike can increase motivation and help overweight and older individuals to maintain fitness training on a regular basis,” comments  Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss, Professor of Sports Medicine at the University of Basel on the study results. “Those who use e-bikes on a regular basis benefit permanently, not only in terms of their fitness, but also in terms of other factors such as blood pressure, fat metabolism, and their mental well-being.” Overall, he suggests that the study provides an important indication of the preventive potential of e-bikes.

Original source

Christoph Höchsmann, Steffen Meister, Damiana Gehrig, Elisa Gordon, Yanlei Li, Monique Nussbaumer, Anja Rossmeissl, Juliane Schäfer, Henner Hanssen, Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss
Effect of E-Bike Versus Bike Commuting on Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Overweight Adults: A 4-Week Randomized Pilot Study.
Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine (2018), doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000438

2 thoughts on “eBikes & eTrikes Provide Same Fitness Benefits As Non-Assisted Counterparts

  1. Hmmm, oxygen uptake same and travel range as the sole fitness indicators of “same” is rather limited – not my personal experience with an e-trike, as my legs get very little work and my heart/lungs get no where near the workout. My power assist e-trike is decidedly easier to ride than my non-motorized trike, but very little physical effort necessary as the motor does most of the work. Yes, my travel range is extended at higher speeds but the trike motor is doing most of the work, not me. I get some range of motion spinning but that is about it.

    1. Depends what type of motor you’re using and how you use it. If you’re using a motor with torque sensor like the TSDZ2 then you set the level of assistance you’re given. I can do a 40 mile ride and return either utterly exhausted or in fine fettle, depending on the level of assist I’ve used. I think the point is that e-assist, when used to get people up hills that would otherwise stop them in their tracks, or used to get them further with the same level of overall effort, means that riders will use their trikes or bikes regularly and therefore gain fitness. A fit rider on relatively flat terrain has no need of e-assist and no benefit. An older or less fit rider forced to traverse undulating terrain will get great benefit from e-assist and eventually gain a level of fitness he or she otherwise wouldn’t have. And as they get fitter and stronger they can continually reduce the amount of assistance they receive from their motors.

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