There is a popular misconception that riding an electric bicycle has no health benefits. Real bicyclists do without help from electric motors and batteries. All that pedaling makes for a good aerobic exercise, they say, while people on e-bikes are “cheaters” — lazy slugs who get no health benefits.
They might as well stay home and watch videos of the Tour De France while sitting in their La-Z-Boy eating popcorn drizzled with butter. Actually, the debate gets pretty ugly at times, with traditional bikers wanting electric bicycle riders banned from bike paths and mountain bike trails.
Not so, say researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder. They recruited 20 sedentary volunteers who agreed to ride an electric bicycle to work at least three times a week for a month. The riders were free to choose the level of assist they preferred. The only requirement was that the trip to and from work take at least 40 minutes.
First, the volunteers were given a full fitness workup to determine their overall health, blood glucose regulation and fitness. After a month, the volunteers had the very same tests conducted again. All 20 had noticeable improvements in their cardiovascular health, with improved aerobic capacity and blood sugar control noted in all cases.
“Commuting with a pedelec can help individuals incorporate physical activity into their day without requiring them to set aside time specifically for exercise,” said James Peterman, a graduate researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology at CU Boulder and lead author of the new study.
“Participants rode a pedelec in the real world at a self-selected moderate intensity, which helped them meet physical activity recommendations. Pedelec commuting also resulted in significant improvements in 2-h post-OGTT glucose, and power output. Pedelecs are an effective form of active transportation that can improve some cardiometabolic risk factors within only 4 weeks. The results of the study were published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
The research was funded in part by the City of Boulder, which is trying to decide whether to allow electric bicycle riders to use city bike paths, which some traditional bicycle riders are opposed to. At one time, people who started their own cars with a hand crank may have looked down their noses at people driving cars with self starters.
Now that there is research showing riding an e-bike actually has positive health benefits, those bike snobs will have to think of some other way to feel superior to pedelec riders.