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Electric Bikes Offer Similar Health Benefits as Conventional Bicycles

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Electric bike riders are just as active as conventional bicycle riders and are likely to enjoy similar health benefits, according to the results of a three-year European study released in June 2019.

This large electric bike survey monitored the physical activity of nearly 10,000 adults in seven major European cities.

In the end, the data showed “that physical activity from travel-related activities is similar for e-bikers and cyclists, as measured by MET-minutes [metabolic equivalent or energy expenditure of a specific activity each minute] per week…Moreover, overall physical activity among both groups was also comparable. These findings counter the often-raised concern that e-biking may result in a substantial reduction of physical activity for traveling due to the electric assist of e-bikes, which reduces the required physical effort.”

Electric Bike Riders Travel Further, Faster

This begs the question if this study shows that electric bike riders are as active as those who ride conventional bicycles, and if electric bikes require less effort to ride, how is it that e-bike riders get as much activity?

The answer is simply that the electric bike riders in the survey often traveled further, faster for longer periods of time. The electric bike riders also rode both e-bikes and conventional bicycles.

Specifically, the data showed that a typical electric bike rider used their e-bike about 14.5 days each month. These same electric bike riders also rode a conventional bicycle about eight (7.9) days each month on average. So that perhaps 22 or 23 days a month, e-bike owners rode some form of bicycle.

In contrast, the cyclists who only rode a conventional bicycle pedaled about 14 days in an average month.

Travel behavior indicators by bicycle user type, mode use frequency in days per month. “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.”
Rider GroupDays Riding an Electric Bike Each MonthDays Riding a Conventional Bike Each MonthTotal Days of Riding Activity Each Month
Electric Bike Group14.57.922.4
Conventional Only Group01414

There may be a few factors contributing to these findings. It may be the case that the ease of riding an electric bike encouraged some participants to travel more often to work, to school, or to the store. It could also be that riding an electric bike his fun, so folks wanted to do it more, and, thus, spent more time riding recreationally or as a travel alternative.

“As this study shows,” the researchers wrote, “average trip distance of e-bike and bicycle trips among e-bikers is significantly higher than bicycle trips among cyclists. Equally, e-bikers’ daily travel distance by e-bike was also significantly longer than daily cycling distance in cyclists.”

The electric bike group generally rode further each time they took an e-bike or bicycle trip. A typical electric bike rider traveled 9.4 kilometers (5.8 miles) when riding an electric bike and about 8.4 kilometers (5.2 miles) when those same e-bike riders chose to use a conventional bike, according to the study. By comparison, folks who only rode a conventional bicycle averaged just 4.8 kilometers (2.9 miles) trip.

Travel behaviour indicators by bicycle user type average trip distance.
Rider GroupAverage Distance for Each Electric Bike TripAverage Distance for Each Conventional Bicycle Trip
Electric Bike Group9.4 km / 5.8 miles8.4 km / 5.2 miles
Conventional Only Group0 km / 0 miles4.8 km / 2.9 miles

The amount of time devoted to riding was also greater for electric bike group. On a typical day, a person from the electric bike group would spend about 23.4 minutes riding an e-bike and just short of ten minutes (9.9) riding a conventional bicycle.

The cycling group, which again was made up of folks who only rode a standard bicycle, rode for about 21.6 minutes per day on average.

Travel behaviour indicators by bicycle user type Daily average travel duration in minutes.
Rider GroupAverage Daily Electric Bike Riding DurationAverage Daily Conventional Bike Riding DurationTotal Average Daily Riding Duration
Electric Bike Group23.4 minutes9.9 minutes33.3 minutes
Conventional Only Group0 minutes21.6 minutes21.6 minutes

In effect, it would appear that electric bikes encourage more riding and activity. So while the specific action of riding an electric bike may be relatively easier than riding a conventional bicycle. The added power and fun actually make you want to ride more.

“Introducing an electric bike into your regular travel transforms your daily commutes into an opportunity for some light physical activity and a chance to catch some fresh air,” wrote EVELO founders Boris and Yevgeniy Mordkovich in The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide.

“Electric bikes are particularly well suited for daily commuting since the motor assistance helps eliminate challenges such as steep hills and headwinds, and creates a smoother, less demanding cycling experience. By using an electric bike, commuters no longer have to worry about arriving at their destination feeling tired, sweaty, or worn out—the bike’s motor takes care of the overly strenuous portions of the ride while still allowing you to mix some physical exercise into your daily routine.”

Minimal Physical Activity Cuts Risk of Premature Death in Half

Physical activity is important for men and women at any age, but it becomes vital for adults older than 40. In fact, for many adults, physical activity can significantly extend your life.

In a separate study, “researchers at the University of Cambridge, School of Clinical Medicine, looked at previous data on 14,599 men and women between the ages of 40 and 79. They assessed their physical activity levels at the beginning of the study, then three more times over the next seven years. They then compared this data to the mortality rates of the participants over the next 12 years,” wrote Diana Bruk in an article for BestLife magazine.

“The results showed that meeting the minimum recommended exercise guidelines—at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week—was associated with a 46 percent decreased risk of premature death. And for those who had never exercised in the past, meeting these guidelines gradually over a period of five years was associated with a 29 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death, an 11 percent lower risk of cancer-related death, and a 24 percent lower risk of mortality overall.”

Taken together, the data from these two, recent studies imply that for many adults riding an electric bike might improve both the length and quality of one’s life.

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