Riding electric bikes offer a wide range of benefits, enabling you to travel further and faster, offering a green alternative for commuting, and encouraging more people to experience the joy of cycling. However, with a motor and battery providing assistance while you pedal, can you get fit on an ebike?
With many aspects of cycling seemingly focused on performance gains, electric bikes are often met with scepticism for providing a helping hand on hills or a sweat-free ride to work. However, riding an electric bike can still improve your fitness.
By some estimates riding an electric bike could help you burn 400 calories an hour under the proper conditions. So it is clear that getting on your e-bike is a good way to shed unwanted fat.
Electric bikes are also fun. They can be a very enjoyable alternative to some car trips, and they sure beat spending all day indoors at a desk or watching Gunsmoke reruns on TNT. In fact one of the big benefits of choosing an electric bike as your medium, if you will, for weight loss, is that you are, perhaps, more likely to actually ride an e-bike then say run a mile or slide on lycra shorts and head to the local gym.
What follows are some tips to keep fit riding an electric bike. Also, it is always a good idea to see your doctor and ensure you’re fit enough for cycling. Your doctor may also be able to recommend dietary changes.
1.Find Reasons to Ride
You will need motivation. If you’re going to ride your way to fitness, you will need a reason to get on your electric bike.
For example, you can commit to riding to the grocery store instead of driving. You’ll save money, improve the environment, and have a reason to ride. If you need almond milk, get on your e-bike. Want to pick up some cauliflower, zucchini, and eggplant for a Thai green curry? Get on your bike.
Maybe you have a family vacation coming up at the beach. Imagine your fit, thin self wiggling your toes in the sand as you pose for a group photo. Think of how good you will look on Facebook. Or imagine the opposite. How will it be if you don’t lose the weight? Your picture will still end up on Facebook, there will just be more of you.
2. Start slowly
An ebike will take the peak exertion out of your ride, so it’s easier to go further. But if you’re new to cycling or not as fit as you want to be, start with shorter rides on easy routes to get the feel for what you’re capable of, rather than being too ambitious.
You’ll gain more fitness benefits from more frequent, shorter rides than from the occasional epic. You’ll also want to understand the range that you can get from your ebike before committing to a ride that might drain the battery.
3. Ride Year Around
Fitness is a year around activity. Many folks ride electric bikes in all sorts of weather and at all sorts of temperatures. Be one of these folks.
You may need a little extra gear, and you will want to make sure you plan your rides, but don’t be afraid to ride in all sorts of weather.
4. Your Diet Matters
To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you ingest. You can do this by increasing your physical activity — this is where riding an electric bike comes in — or reducing how much you eat.
You will probably be most successful if you do both — eating less and exercising more.
Eating less doesn’t, however, mean you have to be hungry. Often you can be just as full eating healthy foods like fruit and vegetables and avoiding processed foods, fast food, and fatty foods.
You can speak with your doctor for specific dietary recommendations, and here are a few diet suggestions.
- Eat four or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
- Replace refined grains with whole grains.
- Reduce fat intake, but do eat avocados and nuts.
- Reduce or eliminate sugar.
- Cut back on dairy products, since these cause inflammation.
- Reduce meat consumption.
5. Breaking down barriers
The same researchers in Utah have also looked at the health benefits of commuting on an electric hybrid bike, finding that riders’ heart rates reached, on average, 89 per cent of the mean achieved when riding a non-assisted hybrid bike, giving them a moderate-intensity workout. Ebike use “retained the majority of the cycling cardiovascular health benefits”, according to the study
Participants in the study also said they were more likely to use an ebike for everyday transportation, including cycling to work, than a traditional bike.
As well as concluding that ebikes are “capable of providing much of the cardiovascular health benefits obtained during conventional bike use”, they also “may help reduce some of the obstacles to conventional bike use, such as increased transportation time, decreased convenience, and physical fatigue”. If people are cycling more instead of driving or using public transport, they are likely to be getting fitter.
That’s a conclusion borne out by another study, which looked at the riding patterns of 10,000 ebike and non-ebike bike users across seven cities in Europe. It found that ebike users took longer trips, so their gain in physical activity was similar to that for regular cyclists.
Again, Tom Bell concurs: “Electric bikes can help you stay out longer on the bike. Even if the average intensity may be lower, there is a big correlation between ride/training duration and fitness improvement, and a lot of aerobic benefits come from increasing ride duration, not just intensity.”
6. Riding farther, more often
“The biggest benefit for e-bikes is that they allow people who normally wouldn’t ride a bicycle to ride a bicycle—and they ride it more often and they ride it farther,” says Christopher Cherry, professor of civil engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and second author on a 2017 study in the Journal of Transport & Health.
The small study tracked 17 participants during three activities: walking, riding a conventional bike and e-biking a hilly 2.75-mile route. The energy expenditure (read: calories burned per minute) was highest for conventional cyclists on the uphill section and for walkers on the downhill section, researchers found. However, the average total energy exerted by participants over the full route was the same whether they walked, biked or rode an e-bike.
Also noteworthy: While e-bikers in this study burned fewer calories overall (they were going faster, which decreased the time they were exerting themselves), they still spent most of their ride in either the moderate or vigorous range of physical activity.
Two people riding electric bikes on a path.
These findings indicate that people have a particular intensity at which they are comfortable working out, says David Bassett, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and one of the study’s authors. That preferred intensity level is likely to be similar regardless of whether they’re riding an e-bike or a conventional bike; they’re just going faster on the e-bike because they have the electric boost.
“If I wanted to, I could jack it up a hill at 18 miles per hour and I would be working just as hard as I would on a conventional bike going 13 miles per hour,” Bassett says. “Or I can go up at 13 miles per hour [on my e-bike] and I’m doing a moderate intensity.”
That e-bikes give riders more control over their intensity level could have surprising fitness benefits. “It’s not fun when the exertion level just becomes too much for you, when your thighs are burning and your lungs are searing, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I hate this,’” Bassett says. “If you can reduce the effort to a level that is pleasant for you, then the exercise is really, really fun and enjoyable.”
As a result, people may ride longer and go farther.
The e-bike effectively “shrinks the distance,” Bassett adds. All of a sudden, a 20-, 30- or even 40-mile ride is completely doable—and it’s fun, he adds. “You’re getting to your destination faster, so the sphere of locations that you can get to in a reasonable amount of time is expanded greatly.”
E-bike riders should be aware of their heart rate while riding. “One does gain the cardiovascular benefits from an e-bike, but it doesn’t feel as taxing. Your heart rate is 9-10 heartbeats per minute lower on an e-bike versus mountain bike when riding at your high-intensity zone. So it’s the same effort, but lower heart rate zones in an e-bike.”
While a lower heart rate can slightly decrease the number of calories burned in a period of time, it can also give riders the energy they need to ride for longer, which ultimately burns more calories than a shorter ride.
In sum, riding an ebike is an excellent way to get fit – and also have cheap transportation, and a whole lot of fun. And maybe even go on a record-breaking cycling vacation! Good luck with this – and if you have experience of other ways of getting fit with an ebike, please tell us about them.
If you are looking for a new way of commuting or want a healthier lifestyle, we are here to help you. Visit our website to learn more about electric bikes and electric scooter or please leave information to us.