Effect of E-Bike Versus Bike Commuting on Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Overweight Adults: A 4-Week Randomized Pilot Study

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Abstract

Objective:

To assess if active commuting with an electrically assisted bicycle (e-bike) during a 4-week period can induce increases in cardiorespiratory fitness measured as peak oxygen uptake (V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak) in untrained, overweight individuals, and if these changes are comparable with those induced by a conventional bicycle.

Design:

Four-week randomized pilot study.

Setting:

Controlled laboratory.

Participants:

Thirty-two volunteers (28 men) participated. Seventeen {median age 37 years [interquartile range (IQR) 34, 45], median body mass index [BMI] 29 kg/m2 [IQR 27, 31]} were randomized to the E-Bike group and 15 [median age 43 years (IQR 38, 45), median BMI 28 kg/m2 (IQR 26, 29)] to the Bike group.

Interventions:

Participants in both groups were instructed to use the bicycle allocated to them (e-bike or conventional bicycle) for an active commute to work in the Basel (Switzerland) area at a self-chosen speed on at least 3 days per week during the 4-week intervention period.

Main Outcome Measures:

V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak was assessed before and after the intervention in an all-out exercise test on a bicycle ergometer.

Results:

V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak increased by an average of 3.6 mL/(kg·min) [SD 3.6 mL/(kg·min)] in the E-Bike group and by 2.2 mL/(kg·min) [SD 3.5 mL/(kg·min)] in the Bike group, with an adjusted difference between the 2 groups of 1.4 mL/(kg·min) [95% confidence interval, −1.4-4.1; P = 0.327].

Conclusions:

E-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.

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