Often people interested in buying an e-bike will have goals in mind for making the purchase. They may want to improve their social and dating lives or lessen their carbon footprint.
Another common consideration is whether or not an e-bike can help them lose weight and get in better shape. After all, a traditional bicycle certainly can. Will an e-bike offer the same, or at least similar health benefits?
Yes, an electric bike can help you lose weight and get in better physical health. While e-bikes boast an engine that can help riders go farther and faster than a traditional bicycle, that does not render it an exercise-free mode of transportation. It still depends on your pedal power to get you moving.
A recent Colorado State University study demonstrated how much and how quickly an e-bike can help. In as little as four weeks, people who were previously sedentary experienced a 10% increase in physical fitness simply by using the e-bike to commute.
E-bikes vs. regular bikes -- which are better for losing weight?
Just because an e-bike might offer exercise, you might still wonder if it offers enough exercise to measure up to its non-assisted counterpart.
A study demonstrated that, under average conditions, a man riding a standard bicycle for an hour would burn 552 calories. Under similar circumstances, a man would burn 444 calories riding an e-bike for an hour.
While that does give a standard bike an edge, it’s a less than 20% edge. Moreover, as we will further explore below, the e-bike presents advantages that may make it a better pick overall for many pursuing improved physical health and weight loss.
A core advantage
E-bikes, on the other hand, have an engine, which adds weight all on its own. It also changes the focus on the construction with e-bikes valuing structural support and safety more. As a result, e-bikes tend to average a weight more in the range of 38-70 pounds, with some tapping out as high as 80.
This changes the kind of exercise riders will get while using an e-bike. While a standard bike and an e-bike both offer cardio workouts, e-bikes have an added element that gives you an additional workout more akin to weight training. The increased effort needed to balance and maneuver the e-bike as you ride it strengthens your core as you go.
This gives an e-bike an advantage, as the more muscles you develop, the more calories you will burn. While the standard bike might initially offer a higher calorie burn rate, an e-bike rider might see that difference shift or disappear in weeks. The stronger your core becomes, the better you’ll feel and the faster you’ll burn calories.
Overcoming physical limitations
One of the hardest things about getting into shape can be getting started in the first place. Depending on how you feel, physically and psychologically, some workouts can be simply too much to jump into.
Biking can be an especially daunting prospect, given how much it’s entirely dependent on your abilities. Prospective riders may find themselves overwhelmed by thoughts of encountering an insurmountable hill or going out too far to not have to walk back.
An e-bike reduces that barrier to admission. No matter the hill, no matter the distance, an e-bike rider knows they have their motor to supplement their efforts. They can start an exercise regime confident that they’ll never have to worry about an embarrassing abortive effort to top that next elevation or a long walk home when pedaling just gets to be too much.
Another group that may want to exercise more but feel trepidation about it are senior members of the population.
While doctors tend to recommend seniors engage in low to moderate physical activity regularly to improve health and quality of life, pain and stiffness in their joints can be pretty limiting.
As sports medicine specialist Dr. Neil Roth notes, “there is nothing better” than exercise to combat the aches and pains of exercise. An e-bike can help a rider overcome what Roth labels the “catch-22” of joint pain: that exercise is the best medicine but initial pain often undermines establishing an exercise routine.
The science is clear: the more stressed we are, the more susceptible we are to weight gain. Therefore, the solution might seem obvious. Reduce your stress and your weight will follow suit.
However, as anyone can tell you, reducing stress often ends up easier said than done. Adding an exercise routine to an already overscheduled life can make things worse too.
An e-bike helps fight this battle on two fronts. First, e-bikes are easy to integrate into your life. Often they can even improve your schedule by offering you ways around traffic, parking, and other common frustrations of day-to-day life.
Second, riding an e-bike in and of itself reduces stress. Thus, climbing onto the seat of an e-bike offers a double shot at weight loss. You’ll be burning calories as you reduce the stress that no doubt triggered, in the first place, some of the weight gains you’re confronting.
Getting it done
For those of us who are looking to improve our fitness and lose weight, it’s great to know that something can help us. However, it’s even better when we can find out tips to be especially effective in achieving our fitness goals.
Thankfully, we already know several ways to maximize their effectiveness in improving physical health.
The right pedal support
Most e-bikes offer a range of support options that range from minimal to extensive. Choosing an option of very limited support might help you burn calories more in the short run but can end up leading to some of the issues of fatigue and pain that standard cycling struggles with.
Too much support might help you go farther but could also leave you feeling frustrated and hopeless as you consider the time to weight loss ratio.
Therefore, the recommendation is to find a sweet spot that offers you the support you need to go far and still feel good while burning enough calories to make it worth your while.
Cristina Goyanes of SHAPE Magazine, a recent convert to e-bike enthusiasm, also recommends shifting your support to fit the terrain. By working harder on flat terrain and seeking more support on hills, riders can get the most out of their e-bike. More weight training on the straightaways, a purer focus on cardio on the hills.
Nothing can kill a plan quicker than disappointment. While big goals might be initially motivating, frequently falling short of them can leave a person feeling hopeless. This goes for utilizing an e-bike to lose weight too.
Following the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations regarding weight loss seems to be the way to go. Look to lose 1 to 2 pounds every week. You may often lose more weight, especially early on. That’s great! Treat it as an excellent surprise.
Then when difficult weeks come around or as your body adapts to the new level of exercise and you see the weight loss level off, you’ll be in the right mindset for it. Setting a goal of one to two pounds gives you the space to experience joy when you exceed it and the commitment to not lose hope you just hit the goal.
300 is the lucky number
While any exercise is good for improving physical fitness, those who want to lose weight and do so consistently will do well reaching a regular weekly goal. In this case, the recommendation is 300 minutes every week.
Five hours may seem like a big ask, especially in these busy times. However, keep in mind that e-bikes shouldn’t add work to your life, but rather relieve some by integration. If you can ride daily, or close to, those 5 hours will quickly become a matter-of-fact part of your life.
Commutes, errands, heading over to a friend’s house, replacing other less effective workouts—all of these are opportunities to use your e-bike in a way that will help you get fit and won’t demand more of your time.
Keep it fresh
As with any routine, it’s easy for boredom to set in before too long. But if you’re proactive, you can head that off at the pass.
Taking things off-road and into beautiful outdoor spots can provide a nice break from the paved roads and sidewalks of your neighborhood or commute. You’ll be appreciating the sights so much you likely won’t even realize how many calories you’ll be burning.
Bringing some friends along or making it a family outing helps too. Good exercise and great people just go well together.
Finally, make it about more than weight loss. Losing weight is an excellent goal, but there’s more to life than how you look in the mirror. Find other things you love about e-biking to remind yourself what you’re riding for, even when it gets hard.
Whether it’s getting outdoors more often, connecting better with loved ones, or helping the environment by reducing the use of your car, it never hurts to notice the other ways you love your e-bike.
The experiences of others
While it’s nice to fuel your own personal motivation for losing weight, it’s nice to hear from others who are further into their physical fitness journey. The Internet’s full of people who are using e-bikes to realize their weight loss goals.
A Brisbane man lost the equivalent of about 30 pounds in just 6 weeks and praised the e-bike for helping him to overcome his previously sedentary lifestyle so quickly.
Rhonda Martin started her quest for physical fitness weighing 400 pounds. After 5 years of e-bike riding, she had lost 270 pounds. Nowadays, she rides 36 miles to work and back every day without issue.