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E-Bikes Add to Walking and Conventional Bicycles as Forms of Exercise

Knoxville, Tenn – Researchers from the Southeastern Transportation Center (STC) in Knoxville, including CEE Professor Chris Cherry, have published a paper in the Journal of Transport & Health that finds that e-bikes still provide health-enhancing physical activity, much like walking and riding conventional bicycles.

Some have suggested that e-bikes are “cheater bikes” compared with conventional bicycles. This paper helps expand the notion that e-bikes can in fact be useful machines for exercise, not simply faster transportation.

The study describes field trials of 17 users of a bikesharing system at the University of Tennessee and investigates physical activity metrics on identical trips made by these three different modes of transportation. Heart rates and human power output were monitored along with the GPS for the hilly 4.43 km route. The e-bike results showed that riders still get moderate-intensity, and even at times vigorous-intensity, physical activity depending on the terrain.

“Reasons people use e-bikes are to travel farther and reduce the very hard work associated with cycling hilly terrain. E-bikes moderate the spikes in exercise that turns away many non-athletic bicyclists while still providing much-needed moderate exercise levels for the whole trip”

While the study required users to choose the highest power setting, users can choose lower power settings to get even more exercise benefits from an e-bikes. As e-bikes become more popular in transportation systems and are adopted at higher rates, e-bike use can certainly contribute to meeting the physical activity recommendation of acquiring an equivalent of 150 minutes of modertate-intensity physical activity.

The Southeastern Transportation Center (STC) is a consortium of nine universities in US Department of Transportation Region 4; it is led by the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee. Operating under the theme Comprehensive Transportation Safety, STC funds research that improves public health and safety by reducing transportation-related fatalities and injuries. These Opportunity & Exploratory Grants provide faculty and students the opportunity to engage in safety-related research within their areas of interest and expertise. O&E Grants provide seed funding to explore new and emerging concepts, technologies, and methods with promising safety enhancement applications. All O&E Grants are competitively awarded.

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