You’re cruising down the street on an electric bike, breeze in your face, when you suddenly wonder if you can actually count this as a workout. After all, you’re having fun and haven’t even broken a sweat. You know that if you just engage the throttle, your thumb will be the only body part getting exercise. But if you pedal away -- even at the highest level of pedal assist -- you will engage your muscles and burn calories. It’s a cardio workout, indeed.
Physical activity of any kind -- along with a healthy diet -- is good for your body, according to experts. And it doesn’t always need to be high intensity. Here’s the thing: The longer the ride you take, the better the workout you get. While you could ride a conventional bicycle, chances are you’ll take an e-bike out for a much longer ride because you’ll have the energy. On that basis alone, you’re doing your body much more good and getting in at least the same amount of exercise that you would’ve on a non-electric bike. The Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives journal recently posted a study based on the energy expenditure of 10,000 adults in seven European countries using different forms of transportation. Researchers concluded that e-bike riders got more exercise each week than pedal cyclists -- attributing it to the increased amount of time and distance they ride.
Another study from Brigham Young University monitored 33 people, mostly 18-to-65-year-old men, riding both standard mountain bikes and electric, pedal-assist mountain bikes on a rolling six-mile course through local hills. They ultimately determined that those riding an e-bike experienced nearly as much physical exertion, generating a heart rate of 93.6 percent of those riding the non-electric mountain bikes. Interestingly, the e-bike riders generally didn’t feel like they were actually getting a workout, yet the numbers proved differently. Pretty cool.
Then take into account that you aren’t stressing any muscles while you’re doing it, and you realize you will be in much less pain --if any -- after a long e-bike ride. In other words, go at a pace that’s comfortable for you.
Frequency also plays a role. That is, the more often you ride your e-bike, the better off you are. So if you replace driving your car with riding your e-bike for running nearby errands, you will instantly start feeling the health benefits of that (and save some gas money, as well). And it lets you refresh your mind, burn off stress, and enjoy some fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun.
Then consider the potential weight loss benefits. While everyone’s body reacts differently to cardio exercise, science has shown that cardio is one of the top weight-loss methods around. After all, it burns calories and fat fast, meaning you'll be able to shed extra pounds and improve your overall health. So yes, you absolutely can lose weight by riding an e-bike.
Although you can max out pedal assist to get a light workout on an e-bike, you might also consider lowering or even turning off the pedal assist, and challenging yourself with some vigorous intensity cardio, from time to time. This can help boost your overall fitness, metabolism and growth hormone production -- a combination that results in a higher level of fat burn. Or do interval training, in which you alternatively lower and raise the pedal assist at specific time intervals. Ideally you go all out at a lower pedal assist level for a short amount of time, and take recovery periods by moving at a higher pedal assist level for twice the length of time as your push intervals.
Long term, e-bikes offer huge health benefits. A 2016 study revealed that just one month of commuting on an e-bike improved fitness and blood sugar levels. It also won’t hurt your cholesterol level, core strength, body mass or weight, either. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young and in good shape, if you’re older with joint pains, have diabetes, are overweight, or which gender you are -- you can improve your physical condition by changing your lifestyle and having fun. Want proof? Start taking an e-bike out to run errands or just cruise the neighborhood. A few days each week at first will do the trick. Take any specific body measurements when you begin -- heart rate, waistline, cholesterol level, blood sugar level, etc. -- and then again after a month. Assuming your diet stays constant, you will likely see improvement in all areas. You’ll look more toned and feel energized.