5 legitimate ways e-bikes can improve your health, according to experts and research

With more than 880,000 e-bikes sold in 2021 and researchers predicting sales will continue to rise, its electric bikes are growing in popularity. Many cyclists use them in some way, whether as a form of transportation, exercise, or both, but some of us still don’t fully understand how riding an electric bicycle can offer similar health benefits to a conventional bicycle.

The beauty of e-bikes: You still get many of the health benefits you get from conventional cycling, with just a little boost. Here, all the e-bike health benefits you’ll get when you start pedaling with an assist.

The health benefits of riding an e-bike

1. Improve brain health

Riding an e-bike can help lift your mood, and it doesn’t take long for that to happen. A study published in PLOS One found that after eight weeks of riding three times a week for 30 minutes each, e-bike riders had improved reaction times, executive function (which involves the ability to plan, focus, and juggle multiple projects), and health self-referred mental. The researchers found these benefits for both regular cyclists and e-bike riders, but said e-bikers could experience even greater benefits.

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We have found that people enjoy it [e-bikes]. They say they’re fun and can have positive effects on your overall well-being, says Jennifer Dill, Ph.D., professor of urban studies and planning and director of the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University.

Other research confirms that riding e-bikes can be mentally beneficial for older adults who are adjusting to the aging process or for those with neurological issues, he adds.

In a small study published in Disability and rehabilitation, stroke survivors said e-bikes helped them increase physical activity levels despite having some level of physical disability (such as having to steer one-handed), because the pedal assist improved their confidence in pedaling longer and further. While the researchers noted that large-scale studies are needed to recommend e-bikes as a form of rehabilitation for stroke survivors, these observations demonstrate that e-bikes can help bridge the gap to physical activity for some. patients.

2. Improve joint health

    Many people fall in love with cycling because it’s a low-impact sport, which means you’ll feel less pressure on your joints (hips, knees, and ankles) than you would if you did a high-impact activity, like running or jumping.

    While running, your body can experience a force of three to five times your body weight upon landing, says Melissa Gallatin, PT, a physical therapist and head of the medical endurance team at Ohio State University. If you have knee osteoarthritis, this puts more pressure on the joint, compared to just pedaling, which doesn’t have much of that impact, she says. It can build muscles around the joint without suffering the trauma of impact.

    3. Aids recovery

      Riding an e-bike is a great way to modify and track your recovery when you get back on the bike after your injury, Gallatin says. If you’re recovering from an injury, such as patellofemoral pain, you should avoid many hills. So if you’re on a bike, if you hit a climb, you can kick the e-bike and take the stress out of that quad so it doesn’t work too hard and allow it to recover, she explains.

      Plus, taking an easy ride on an e-bike can aid recovery after an intense workout. It will take some of the stress away, so you don’t overwork your muscles, but get joint movement and circulation to help with any type of lactic acid buildup, Gallatin says. Research confirms the benefits of light physical activity to help muscles recover.

      A ride on an e-bike could also help you stick to the low-intensity training zone you want to maintain for recovery rides between intense training days.

      4. Keeps physical activity levels high

        Riding an e-bike will get your heart rate up so you can reach your activity goals each week. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (plus two days of strength training).

        We know that when you ride an e-bike, the intensity is lower when you use electric assistance. But research has found that people are still in that range of moderate to vigorous physical activity, which is what health recommendations for adults are, Dill says.

        Additionally, e-bike riders tend to ride longer and maintain activity levels comparable to conventional cyclists, Dill says. In fact, a study, published in 2022 in Transport research in interdisciplinary perspectives, surveyed more than 10,000 e-bike and conventional cyclists to find that e-bike riders averaged more miles per trip, 5.8 miles, than conventional cyclists, who averaged 2.9 miles.

        What’s more: The study found that many riders don’t swap their conventional bikes for e-bikes, but instead use both. So if you have an e-bike or are looking to invest in one, that just means you’ll likely increase your activity levels even more. Plus, you can still get your heart rate up and get a great workout when riding an e-bike.

        5. Increases overall health

        In addition to making you move more and rack up more miles, e-bikes also improve your overall well-being. According to a systematic review and meta-analysis, published in 2022 in Frontiers in sport and active life, researchers have found that e-bike riding can increase your VO2 max, an indicator of your aerobic fitness level. For this reason, researchers say that activity can improve health and reduce the risk of early mortality, as better aerobic fitness is linked to better health outcomes.

        While we need more research on how e-biking benefits specific health metrics like blood pressure and cholesterol levels, getting more exercise has many benefits for your overall well-being, with little downside.

        Headshot of Monique Lebrun

        Monique LeBrun joined the newsroom in October 2021 as associate health and fitness editor. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and previously worked for ABC News and Scholastic. She is an avid runner who loves spending time outdoors.

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