Researchers at the University of Colorado recently published findings in the European Journal of Applied Physiology that present strong evidence that use of electric bikes can help out-of-shape riders exercise more regularly. The research may have interesting effects on the rate of electric bike use in the United States and the willingness of cities to allow them in traditional bike lanes.
The participants in the study were all people living sedentary lifestyles that had two main excuses for not exercising: not enough time, and not enough current physical fitness. The researchers chose to eliminate both of these excuses by giving participants electric bikes to ride to and from work every morning and afternoon. Because the motor on an electric bike only kicks in during pedaling, the participants were forced to exert some physical force — but not as much as would be required riding a typical bicycle.
The researchers were pleasantly surprised by their findings: an overwhelming number of the participants reported enjoying the experiment, and recorded levels of aerobic fitness were significantly up.
Although there are several impediments blocking the widespread adoption of electric bikes, notably the astronomical price of many top models, researchers believe that these bicycles have the power to encourage exercise in segments of the population that would never get on an entirely manual bicycle. They are hopeful that when prices inevitably decrease, people will ride electric bikes on their commutes — this adoption will cut down on fossil fuel usage, trim carbon emissions, and encourage a healthier population.