Riding Electric Bicycles Boon To Health And Not Cheating, Confirms Literature Review

The Tern GSD – “get stuff done” – compact e-cargobikeTern

Cycling is better for health than riding a pedal-assist electric bike, but e-bikes provide a better workout than walking. That’s the conclusion of a new systematic review published in the latest International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Lead author Jessica Bourne, a PhD student in the University of Bristols Nutrition Biomedical Research Centre, examined seventeen studies from around the world. She and her associates found that e-cycling “provided physical activity of at least moderate intensity, which was lower than the intensity elicited during conventional cycling, but higher than that during walking.”

Critically, pedal assist technology can be the trigger for getting previously inactive people on bikes. “E-cycling can improve cardiorespiratory fitness in physically inactive individuals,” said the new study, stated to be the “first review to examine the physical activity intensity, cardiorespiratory, metabolic and psychological outcomes associated with e-cycling.”

The belief that e-bikes are ridden by the exercise-averse is widespread among cyclists. However, this literature review, and the studies it evaluates, shows this belief to be wide of the mark.

While those on e-bikes exercise at less intensity than if they were on traditional bicycles – industry adverts promote e-bikes as sweat-free – e-bike riders perform at “greater intensity than walking,” said the review. However, “given the reduced amount of time taken to complete a ride on an e-bike … total energy expenditure … is lower than when … walking over the same distance.” In other words, replacing a walk with a shorter ride will be quicker but offer reduced health benefits. “Individuals would have to ride for longer for comparable weekly energy expenditure,” said the study.