Germany: e-bikes attract new types of users

E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular, and the pandemic gave electrically-powered bikes a further boost. Is this type of cycling also good for your health?

Study overview

More than 2 hours of exercise per week

The researchers used the WHO targets of at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intensive physical activity per week, measured by heart rate, as a benchmark. More conventional cyclists achieved this than e-bikers (35% versus 22.5%). They also spent more time in the saddle overall (around 25 minutes per week).

However, when e-bikers did get on their bikes, they spent longer on average (6.5 minutes per ride) than their non-electric counterparts. As a result, they were also on the road for an average of 135 minutes per week and thus achieved two thirds of the WHO's physical activity targets.

E-bikes instead of cars

The team led by sports scientist Sven Haufe also wanted to know what motivated the cyclists and whether the bicycle or e-bike replaced other means of transport. For most of them (e-bikers and conventional cyclists alike), fitness was the main motivation. In contrast to cyclists, the aspect of comfort was almost as important to e-bikers. Costs and environmental aspects, on the other hand, played a subordinate role for both groups. Nevertheless, the e-bike often replaced the car, whereas the classic bike was primarily used instead of local transport on the way to work.

With regards to safety, within 12 months, 109 road accidents and 157 dangerous situations involving bicycles or e-bikes were reported, with no significant difference between the two groups. However, more female e-bikers than female cyclists were involved in road accidents.

A sport for older, overweight or people with pre-existing conditions

Even if the conventional cyclists were more active and more sporty overall, the researchers still see great potential in e-biking. For example, the e-drive could motivate people who are otherwise hardly physically active, but who need it and would benefit most from it: Older people, people who are overweight, or patients who have health restrictions. More than a third of the participating e-bikers had pre-existing conditions such as heart attacks, high blood pressure or osteoarthritis. For them, e-bikes can lower the inhibition threshold for more exercise.

Key take-aways for medical practice

E-bikes can fulfil an important public health function and kill two birds with one stone: motivate vulnerable people to be more physically active, and help to reduce CO2 emissions by replacing car journeys. It is therefore worthwhile to convince your patients of the benefits of e-bikes.

Source
  1. Haufe S, Boeck HT, H├Ąckl S, et al. Impact of electrically assisted bicycles on physical activity and traffic accident risk: a prospective observational study. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2022;8:e001275. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2021-001275