There is no dispute surrounding the health benefits of physical activity, with the government recommending adults accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. However, many fall short of these guidelines. Cycling has the potential to help many people achieve suggested physical activity goals, especially if incorporated into their everyday lives. However, not everyone can cycle sufficient distances due to poor physical fitness, long commuting distance and steep Scottish hills! Electric bikes (e-bikes) can make cycling more accessible to the wider population providing uphill and long distance assistance.
Of course, some people will believe that e-cycling does not constitute exercise due to the assistance given by the bike – BUT continual pedalling is still required before assistance from the bike kicks in. A recent systematic review reports e-bikes provide moderate intensity physical activity for both physically active and inactive individuals . The review found that although e-cycling elicits lower physiological markers of intensity than traditional cycling, it provides a greater intensity than walking. Therefore, e-bikes can provide greater health benefits than walking. Furthermore following a 4-week intervention (commuting by e-bike at least 3 days per week or a minimum for 40mins) significant improvements were found in blood sugar control, cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max), and power output achieved during VO2max testing in previously inactive individuals . There is also evidence to suggest e-bikes increase the duration of cycling undertaken even by seasoned cyclists .
Although e-bikes can often be criticised as an easy way to exercise, the evidence shows that they do provide health benefits in both active and inactive individuals. So why not go out and give them a try….here are some locations across Scotland where you can rent or loan an e-bike:
1. Bourne, J.E., et al., Health benefits of electrically-assisted cycling: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 2018. 15(1): p. 116.
2. Peterman, J.E., et al., Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2016. 116(8): p. 1565-73.
3. Fyhri, A. and N. Fearnley, Effects of e-bikes on bicycle use and mode share. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 2015. 36: p. 45-52.
E-bikes- a personal view
We asked John Palfreyman from the Coupar Angus cycle hub for his thoughts and experiences.
“All my life I have cycled. Last year it started to hurt! After a long cycle of around 60 miles, with lots of hills, I was on my knees. I was tempted by an electric bike but all my cycling friends said ‘That’s cheating’. Now, a couple of years ago I had used an electric mountain bike on some forest trails on the Pyrenees. It was a great experience. Without telling my friends I tried out an electric road bike from the Cycle Hub in Coupar Angus (they have plenty of them for hire or even free for a first go). Oh wow, what an experience, I knew that if I could afford it I needed to buy an electric bike. In August last year I took the plunge. A three day, 150 mile expedition which included climbing over Glenshee, convinced me that I had made the right decision. In addition my traditional hybrid bike normally gets put away for the winter and by March, when I get it out again, I have to start getting bike fit again.
No problems this year, I have cycled right through the winter on fair days and foul. And, just in case you think I am cheating, I still have to pedal on the new bike, and the range, at least 80 miles, probably more”.