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If you find it hard to set aside time specifically for exercise, riding an electrically-powered bicycle on a regular basis can provide you with an effective workout while improving some aspects of cardiovascular health, suggests new research.
Electric-assist bicycles (pedelecs) are equipped with a built-in electric motor that provides modest assistance while the rider is actively pedalling, making it easier to cover greater distances and hilly terrain.
"Commuting with a pedelec can help individuals incorporate physical activity into their day without requiring them to set aside time specifically for exercise," said lead author of the study James Peterman at University of Colorado Boulder in the US.
Pedelecs have steadily grown more popular with consumers over the past decade, especially in Europe and Asia.
While an assist from an electric motor would get a rider disqualified from a competitive cycling competition such as the Tour de France, the researchers wanted to find out whether or not pedelecs could help physically inactive non-cyclists achieve recommended daily fitness levels.
To conduct the study, they recruited 20 non-exercising volunteers who were sedentary commuters (car commuters). The researchers tested various aspects of their health, including blood glucose regulation and fitness.
The volunteers were then asked to substitute their sedentary commute for riding their pedelec at the speed and intensity of their choice for a minimum of 40 minutes three times per week while wearing a heart monitor and a GPS device.
After a month, the volunteers came back to the lab and had their health tested again. The researchers noticed improvements in the riders' cardiovascular health, including increased aerobic capacity and improved blood sugar control.
The findings were published online in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
Pedelec bicycles are designed to provide motorised assistance up to speeds of 32 km per hour. Above that speed, riders must provide all the pedalling power themselves.