Is riding an eBike still a workout?
To many, riding an eBike feels like cheating. Afterall, we aren’t really working the quads or breaking a sweat when the motor is doing all the work, right? Well, contrary to that popular assumption, riding an electric bike can still be both a workout and a great tool for boosting your overall fitness and wellbeing.
Riding for everyday trips.
One of the key ways an eBike improves fitness is accessibility and ease. To many, bikes are unapproachable and/or purely for recreation. An eBike, however, breaks down many barriers and makes it easier to ride everyday and for more reasons than recreations. This simple act of choosing to ride more is in and of itself, a workout.
It isn’t just us writing this, a few studies around the world have shown that when compared to a traditional bike, riding an eBike boosts fitness by making it easier for people to choose to ride for the daily trips that they would otherwise hop in a car or train.
For example, a 2020 study, “Everyday Pedelec Use and Its Effect on Meeting Physical Activity Guidelines”, found “that pedelecs are used more often than normal bicycles in everyday use when no usage specifications are made… [with] an increase of trips with the pedelec compared to the bicycle…. [for] commuting and day-to-day tasks (e.g., grocery shopping)”. The study further found that the “average heart rate during everyday pedelec use was significantly lower than during cycling, but was still high enough to be classified as moderate by ACSM standards.” [See also, Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode (2016)]
This finding was reconfirmed in a 2021 study, “Metabolic and Cardiovascular Responses to a Simulated Commute on an E-Bike” that compared cardiometabolic responses (e.g., heart rate and oxygen consumption) between a regular bike and eBike at two different assist levels during a 3-mile ride. While the eBike riders felt like they weren’t working as hard, the results showed that they were still working at a “moderate intensity”.
Preventative medicine to future proof your body.
But riding an eBike isn’t just about the distance and frequency: it also provides a range of physical and mental health benefits such as:
- Improved range of motion, joint mobility, and flexibility
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Decreased stress, anxiety, and depression levels,
- Increased balance and coordination
As the Rider, you control the output of the motor and how “sweaty” you want your ride to be. Regardless of that level of output, your body is still in motion and subtle things are at work internally.
For example, you’ve noticed that you not only feel tight after a long day at the computer, but also on an extended road trip, when bending over, or even when you roll out of bed in the morning. According to Sayshie Poynton (BSc Myotherapy, BSc BioMed) from Rig Pilates + Myotherapy, “a tense feeling beneath your skin is likely caused by your fascia, a thin layer of connective tissue that lies under the skin and also encases the muscles, organs, bones, tendons, ligaments, nerve fibers, and blood vessels.” It’s like a spider-web within the body that helps everything move and communicate efficiently.
“Keeping the fascia flexible can improve your range of motion and reduce overall physical pain, in your day to day life” says Sayshie. The low-impact cycling movements make the back, hip and knee joint bend and stretch gently like a wave and helps to ease the movement of the fascia, muscles and joints.
If the fascia, or the container for the muscle, becomes rigid then the content in the container—the muscle and joints—become rigid as well. “In addition to prescribing low-impact, gentle cycling as rehabilitation for conditions such as osteoarthritis, post hip/knee surgeries, fibromyalgia or myofascial pain syndromes, I also recommend many clients do it just to keep things moving - movement is medicine!” continues Sayshie.
Bike riding also improves the muscle strength around the knee and hip joints, which ultimately protects them when there are any impact actions. Plus, the movement helps lubricate the joints - stimulating them and preventing exacerbated degeneration of the joint - which in turn reduces pain and stiffness.
Bike riding for the mind.
Beyond the physical benefits, riding an ebike also has a positive impact on our brain and inner wellbeing. Even if you are riding with full assistance, the mere act of riding and staying upright helps with our balance and coordination, two fundamental components for ageing. If you think back to learning to ride as a kid and the challenge of balancing on training wheels, it is easier to imagine this powerfully subtle benefit.
Furthermore, bike riding outside is a great way to lower stress and boost your mental health. Countless studies have affirmed that spending time outside improves our mental wellbeing, reduces anxiety, stress and depression symptoms, helps with sleep, and boosts your immune system.
Ultimately, riding an eBike is a win-win. It is a low-impact exercise that is easy and accessible, provides a moderate intensity of physical activity, can kickstart further training programs, treat and prevent many conditions related to our modern sedentary life, and is just plain fun!