E-bikes are unlikely to help users meet their weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity goals because cyclists tend to take fewer and less physically demanding trips than conventional cyclists, suggests a study published in open access journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.
But e-bikes may persuade older and/or overweight people to take up two wheels who wouldn’t otherwise consider using a bicycle, the researchers suggest.
E-bikes have become increasingly popular in recent years, with around 3.4 million bikes sold in European Union countries in 2019, up from just 98,000 in 2006.
This number is expected to increase further to reach 62 million by 2030. And an equally rapid increase in popularity is predicted in Asia and the United States.
It’s not entirely clear whether e-bikes help users meet physical activity guidelines and whether they can also increase the rate of cycling accidents.
The researchers therefore compared the recommended weekly goals of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and accident rates in 1,250 e-bikers and 629 conventional cyclists across the country. ‘Germany.
The volunteers provided information on health-related quality of life, daily physical activity and health issues, as well as details of cycling accidents.
They were asked to record riding time, distance traveled and heart rate for each bike ride over a 4-week period, using a smartwatch activity tracker. Accident rates were tracked over a 12-month period.
E-bikers tend to be older, weigh more, have more underlying health conditions, and exercise less but more recreational physical activity than conventional cyclists.
Electric cyclists averaged nearly 70 minutes less MVPA than conventional cyclists, who logged over 150 minutes more MVPA on their bikes.
Conventional cyclists also made more weekly trips, on average, than e-bikers: about 6 versus to 4.
Total time spent on a bike was also nearly 25 minutes longer, on average, among conventional cyclists, although e-bikers took longer trips, recording an extra 6.5 minutes on average.
The average heart rates of the cyclists were also higher, suggesting a greater level of exertion: 119 beats per minute. versus 111 beats per minute among e-bikers.
Age, gender, underlying conditions, and reported use of a bicycle for sport and commuting were significant predictors of meeting recommended weekly physical activity goals. Electric cyclists were about half as likely as conventional cyclists to achieve these goals.
A total of 109 accidents and 157 near misses occurred during the 12 month monitoring period. After controlling for potentially influential factors, e-bike use and total time spent on a bike predicts road accident risk, with e-cyclists 63% more likely to have an accident traffic than conventional cyclists.
The most commonly cited reason for buying either type of bike was fitness, but e-bikers were twice as likely to cite convenience (ease of riding a bike) as cyclists conventional. Environmental protection or saving money were hardly mentioned.
“The characteristics of the participants in our cohort suggest that e-biking is attractive, particularly for those who will benefit the most for health-related fitness, namely older users, overweight and obese people, or those who have health-related limitations and fewer physical activities,” the researchers write.
This is an observational study, and the researchers acknowledge that the heart rate assessment was not as accurate as an ECG tracing would have been.
But their findings support those of previous studies showing that “e-bikes offer the ability to continue cycling despite physical limitations and have the potential to maintain physical activity and fitness,” they add.
“Further research on user motivations and the possible replacement of other modes of transport is needed to determine whether e-bikes, as an active form of electromobility, could make a relevant contribution to alleviating traffic congestion and air pollution, and promote active living.
BMJ Open Sports and Exercise Medicine
The title of the article
Impact of electrically assisted bicycles on physical activity and the risk of road accidents: a prospective observational study
Publication date of articles
Oct 11, 2022
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of press releases posted on EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.