Can You Get Fit On an E-Bike?

One of the things that I wanted to know when I was looking to buy an e-bike was whether or not it would help me to get fit. So, I did some research to find out how exactly an e-bike would be able to help me to get fitter.

So can you get fit on an e-bike? Since you still need to pedal, when using an electric bike, it will help you to improve your fitness level. The extent to which an electric bike will help you to become fitter will depend on your current fitness levels and what you intend to use the electric bike for.

Often, people think that electric bikes do not help you to improve your fitness because the electric motor is the one that is doing the work. However, this isn’t necessarily the case, and there are a number of health benefits to be gained from the use of an electric bike.

Why You Can Get Fit With an Electric Bike

There are many ways in which an electric bike can help you to become fitter. Below I will try to detail as many as I can.

  • You need to pedal

Many people think of electric bikes as being more similar to scooters than bikes mainly because they don’t think that you need to pedal with electric bikes.

The most common form of an electric bike is called a pedal assist electric bike. These work by making use of an electric motor to give you an extra push as you pedal. They use a torque sensor, where you pedal, to make the motor give you more assistance when you’re going fast and less when you’re going slowly.

This means that, even though you are being given assistance from the electric motor, you do still need to pedal to get the bike moving and to keep it moving. So, despite not having to pedal as hard as you would be on an ordinary bike, you are still getting a workout.

Then, by riding an electric bike you will still be burning calories and improving your fitness since you will still be needing to expend energy in using the bike.

It should be mentioned, here, that there is another type of electric bike that doesn’t require that you pedal, called a throttle assisted electric bike. These types of electric bikes work by making an electric motor turn one of the wheels as you turn the throttle. They are less common than pedal assisted bikes and in most areas, you will need a license to use one.

  • Depends on its intended use

For many people getting an e-bike represents getting another mode of transport that they wouldn’t previously have had access to. Often, this results in them using the electric bike instead of making use of a car.

If this is the case then it’s easy to see that using the electric bike is going to improve their health since what it is replacing does not improve health in any way.

Another example of when using an electric bike is better is if you usually commute using a bus or if you rideshare in those cases the electric bike will also represent a more healthy option.

If you’re a person that uses an ordinary bike to get everywhere then perhaps in your case it won’t improve your fitness but for the majority of people, this is not the switch that is being made and usually, you’ll find that the e-bike is the healthier option.

  • More enjoyable

In a 2016 study, 20 inactive people were given electric bikes and were asked to use them for 40 minutes 3 days a week. At the end of the study, not only was it found that the participants had actually lost fat and improved their health, but it was found that many of them had actually cycled more than was asked.

Using electric bikes is something that, for many people, is a lot more enjoyable than riding an ordinary bike. When pedaling, on an electric bike, each pedal makes you feel like you have super strong legs which can be a motivating feeling for many people. With that being the case, if getting an electric bike in place of an ordinary bike means that they will actually use it, then it would also be the most healthy option.

Many people buy an ordinary bike, use it for a few weeks and then get discouraged due to how hard it can be in certain situations such as when going up a hill or cycling into the wind. Having the extra power, in these situations, provided by the electric motor can negate these issues helping you to stick with it in the long term.

  • Better for knee injuries

Another benefit of the power provided by the electric motor is that it means that pedaling on an electric bike can be easier on the joints.

For many people, getting a normal bike is out of the question since it’s too hard on their joints and in most of these situations the alternative is to walk or to drive. Walking is not really an option for things that are further away so traveling further distances would normally be done with a car.

The introduction of the electric bike is something that has given many of these people a third option. The size and power of the electric motors and batteries on these bikes has made traveling further than walking distance without a car possible for these people. So, now they can get most of the health benefits from cycling back without needing to put too much pressure on their joints.

  • Makes journeys seem less challenging

Since the electric motor makes cycling easier it means that traveling further distances becomes something that is more realistic.

When in the past you would have opted not to cycle a certain distance now it could be that cycling there on your electric bike is something that you would seriously consider.

This is where, for many people, electric bikes have a leg up on regular bikes. Using them is just a more plausible option as a number of people on this Reddit post mentioned.

  • You can control the level of assistance

If you’re torn between getting an electric bike and an ordinary bike for fitness reasons then something to bear in mind is that, on pedal assisted e-bikes, you can turn the assistance setting down to zero.

This means that you can cycle the electric bike just like an ordinary bike and when it starts to get difficult you can turn the power assistance on to give yourself an extra push.

  • Easier for older people

For many older people cycling an ordinary bike is just too difficult since it requires too much strength to get going and to keep the bike moving.

In this case, electric bikes could provide a feasible alternative for them. Perhaps, it won’t be as effective fitness wise as an ordinary bike, but they will still need to pedal and an electric bike could be a good way to stay active for older people that need a bit of extra assistance.

  • Relieve stress

For many people driving can be a very stressful experience. Having to constantly be looking out for other cars and being stuck in traffic jams can raise stress levels causing cortisol levels to rise which can have a number of health implications.

Cycling, on the other hand, can reduce stress levels and release dopamine causing you to feel more relaxed and to improve health.

Cycling with an electric bike is no different in this regard and has been shown to have a positive impact on your health.

So, by substituting the car for an electric bike when possible will help you to improve your fitness levels and to feel better.

  • They weigh more

Due to the electric motor, naturally, electric bikes weigh more than ordinary bikes. This could be seen as a negative for electric bikes since it means that they will require more power to get moving but in a fitness sense, it’s just the opposite.

If you’re using the bike with a low level of assistance then it means that you’re going to have to put in some extra effort to get the bike going resulting in you burning more calories and improving your fitness levels.

  • You still need to balance

Just like with an ordinary bike, to keep an electric bike up, you will need to keep your balance. The act of maintaining balance is something that in and of itself will cause you to burn calories.

  • It makes for an easy break-in

For many people jumping straight on to an electric bike represents too much of a jump and if they were to do it they would quickly become discouraged by the difficulty of using it.

In this case, an electric bike represents a good option for breaking into getting used to cycling. Using an electric bike is easier for them so it’s more likely that they will stick it out.

Then, once they have been using the electric bike for a while, if they want to they can then make the leap to using an ordinary bike. Only this time they will be less likely to give up since going from an electric bike to an ordinary bike won’t really represent a large jump so it won’t be much more difficult than what they’re used to.

When They’re Not

Even though, for many people, getting an e-bike can represent an easy way to break into fitness and to get fitter there are some situations where getting an electric bike isn’t going to help for fitness.

If you cycle regularly and your intention is to get an electric bike is to replace your ordinary bike because it’s easier then the e-bike might not be beneficial fitness wise here. Even though electric bikes do have beneficial impacts on one’s fitness, they are not as good as an ordinary bike when they’re both being cycled the same amount.

If you currently cycle regularly and you’re considering getting an electric bike then you should consider reasons for getting the electric bike for enjoyment and convenience over fitness. Perhaps, the power of the electric bike will help you to cycle further in which case an argument could be made that the electric bike will still help fitness wise. Or maybe you’re getting bored and are considering getting an electric bike instead of stopping completely here an electric bike could still be a healthy option for you.

Another instance where getting an electric bike might not be a better option is if you’re going to get it to replace walking. If you currently walk to most of your destinations then you are getting a lot of health benefits out of doing so and to replace that with an electric bike might not do much for improving your health. Here an electric bike can still have its place if there are areas that you’d like to go to but are a bit too far away to walk to then an electric bike could be a good option for you.

How to Get a Workout With an Electric Bike

If you want to get a good workout using an electric bike then there are a number of things that you can do, I will mention some of them below.

  • Go to the hills

One of the most challenging aspects of cycling can be tackling steep hills. If you want to get a good workout in then you could cycle to a steep hill in your local area and try to tackle it using your e-bike. If you haven’t been doing lots of exercise recently then the first few times you do it you may want to use one of the higher assistance settings but you should try to use one of the lower settings or no setting as soon as you can in order to get a proper workout. Be warned, this can be extremely taxing on the legs.

  • Turn off the assistance

If you normally use the electric bike on a higher setting and you want to get more of a workout then you could try turning the assistance off or to one of the lower settings. When it starts to get too difficult for you then turn the assistance up but try to keep it off for as long as you can and then next time you can try to keep it off for longer while also keeping up the same level of intensity.

  • Go on a journey you wouldn’t normally

Another option for you is to simply cycle further than you normally would. This could mean that you cycle to work instead of driving or you could simply cycle somewhere that you would like to go.

  • Use it on a trail for mountain bikes

An opportunity that the electric bike provides is that you can now tackle obstacles that previously would have been too difficult. On trails designed for mountain biking there are normally many steep slopes that would have been too difficult in the past but now with the electric motor, you could try taking these courses on if you want.

Related Questions

How far do electric bikes go? Depending on the size of the battery and motor, how fast you are going and how hilly the area is amongst other factors, a typical distance on a single charge is between 20-50 miles.

How much do e-bikes cost? You can get lower end electric bikes at around $1000 however high-quality electric bikes start at around $2000. Alternatively, you can get an electric bike conversion kit and create an electric bike of your own.

How steep a hill can an electric bike climb? Electric bikes can help you to climb hills over 18 degrees but that will depend on how strong you are at hill climbs yourself.

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