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Cycling on an electric bike just a few times each week can improve an adult’s cardiorespiratory performance and general health in ways similar to riding a conventional bicycle or taking vigorous walks, according to several clinical studies. One of the most telling studies, released in the May 2018 edition of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, compared the peak oxygen uptake (VO2 max) of 32, overweight adults before and after four weeks of bicycle commuting.

Swiss Study Shows Electic Bikes Improve VO2 Max

The study, “Effect of E-Bike Versus Bike Commuting on Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Overweight Adults,” took its participants from local government offices in and around Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft, Switzerland during the summer of 2016.
Riding a bicycle or an electric bike to work may improve your cardiovascular health. Photo by Blubel.
  For more than a decade, the Swiss government has been trying to encourage citizens to ride a conventional bicycle or electric bike to work rather than driving or taking public transportation. As part of this program, the nation holds a four-week “Bike to Work” promotion during the warm summer months. This promotion served as the intervention period for the Swiss study. Each of the subjects was relatively overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 35. (A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered normal, according to the American Heart Association.) Each participant was an adult aged 18-to-50, and each was willing to cycle to work at least three times each week during the intervention period. The subject’s commute had to be at least 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) each way. Other than cycling, the participants kept their normal eating habits and normal levels of physical activity. To determine how cycling impacted each of the subjects, the Swiss researches measured VO2 max before and after the four-week intervention. VO2 max measures the peak amount of oxygen a person can use during intense exercise. It is considered a good measurement of aerobic endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Thus, any improvement in VO2 max would indicate that bicycling imply heart and lung health.
The Swiss study showed that riding an electric bike to work (or just riding an electric bike in general) improves your ability to update oxygen.
  At the beginning of the study, all 32 participants had normal VO2 max scores and normal resting blood pressure levels. By the end of the intervention period, those participants riding electric bikes had improved their VO2 max by 3.6 mL/(kg·min) from a mean of 35.7 mL/(kg·min) before the trial to a mean of 39.3 mL/(kg·min) at the end of the four-week period. Conventional bike riders enjoyed a 2.2 mL/(kg·min) gain from a mean of 36.4 mL/(kg·min) at the beginning of the study to a mean of 38.6 mL/(kg·min) at the study’s conclusion. The study subjects also enjoyed improvements in resting heart rate and resting blood pressure after just four-weeks of cycling to work. Bottom line, electric bikes “may have the potential to improve cardiorespiratory fitness similar to conventional bicycles despite the available power assist, as they enable higher biking speeds and greater elevation gain,” wrote the Swiss study’s authors.

Electric Bikes Overcome the Barriers to Exercise

This Swiss study’s findings are generally consistent with other clinical research. An analysis of electric-bike-related clinical studies, “Health benefits of electrically-assisted cycling: a systematic review,” published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in 2018 reported that eight of eleven studies examined showed improvements in oxygen uptake as a result of riding an electric bike. “Riding an e-bike led to a relative mean oxygen uptake of 14.7 to 29  ml/min/kg or 51 to 74 percent of maximum oxygen uptake,” the analysis said. What’s more, many adults may find it easier to start exercising with an electric bike than to get started walking, running, or riding a conventional bicycle. Electric bikes may help adults become and stay more active. “Electric bikes offer riders a high degree of control over the level of physical exertion required to ride, making them particularly helpful for anybody who would like to become more fit, but who may need to gradually and carefully ease into increased physical activity,” according to chapter three of “The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide.” “Electric bikes, therefore, may provide an especially helpful way to exercise for those who fall into the following categories: recovering from an injury or illness, looking for a low-impact workout, elderly cyclists, people who are new to working out, returning to physical activity after a prolonged period of inactivity,” the guide concluded.
Not only is bicycling super fun, it’s generally very safe and easy on your body as well. It’s low impact and highly aerobic, meaning it gets your heart rate up without wearing down your body. Unlike sports such as running or basketball, you’re in no danger of colliding with another person, and your legs never have to bang into the ground. Instead, they’re moving in stress-free, low impact circles. But even the safest activities have the occasional risk, especially if you’re not adhering to proper form. One complaint we’ve heard from some of our bicycling friends is that after a long ride, their knees hurt. Unfortunately, there are a few mistakes that some riders make that ends up hurting their knees – but if you follow these six easy tips, you can knock out knee pain for good!

Keep Your Knees Straight

As you pedal, make sure you do so in perfect circles, keeping your knees straight. Any movement or wobbling to the side – either inwards or outwards – increases stress on your cartilage and knee cap as they rub together, and can lead to serious discomfort. So keep your pedaling as straight and circular as possible. 1005_knee_alignment_2(2)

Keep Your Speed Up

It’s important to keep up a decent speed as you ride, so you can maintain a fluid motion as you pump your knees and legs. Experts say that pedaling under 60 RPM (revolutions per minute) can be dangerous, and actually recommend you try to stay above 80 RPM. The trick to maintaining this speed is to make sure you are in the proper gear (so as not to be going faster than is comfortable for you.) Or if you’re finding it hard to keep pedaling at a proper speed, consider the mechanical assistance of an electric bike.

Watch Your “Float”

This advice applies to riders who use clip-in pedals, but it can make all the difference: make sure the “float” of your foot position matches the natural angle of your feet and ankles. Angling your legs too sharply radiates tension through your entire legs, and can sharply increase pressure on your knees. For the best results, keep your float under 4.5 degrees.

Move Yourself Back

Here’s another thing that you might not think impacts your knees, but absolutely does: the position of your feet, and the position of your “seat.” If you’re riding too close to your handlebars, it changes the angles your knees have to be at, and that can lead to some serious ouchies. So sit your butt further back, keep your feet planted properly on the pedals, and watch the pain glide away.

Consider Kinesio Tape

For those with extra sensitive knees, we recommend looking into kinesio, or elastic therapeutic, tape. It clings to your muscles and joints, keeping your knees in proper alignment. Unlike traditional athletic tape, it mimics your skin, allowing for a much greater degree of movement, and is clinically shown to reduce pain. wrap-it-up

Don’t Push Too Hard

This one comes down to your mentality: don’t push yourself too hard! Some people, when feeling a little pain in a body part, think they can just “push through the pain.” That might work for something like a headache, but when it comes to your knees, it’s not worth the risk. Something that may just be a minor ache today could flare up into a serious tear or worse, should you keep riding on it. So if you’re feeling a serious ouch, take a day or two off from riding, or consider switching your ebike to all-electric mode.   Do you have any favorite tips or advice for dealing with pain when you bike? Let us know your preferred methods in the comments below!