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

Höchsmann, Christoph, MSc*; Meister, Steffen, MD*; Gehrig, Damiana, MSc*; Gordon, Elisa, PhD; Li, Yanlei, PhD; Nussbaumer, Monique, MSc*; Rossmeissl, Anja, MD*; Schäfer, Juliane, PhD*,§; Hanssen, Henner, MD*; Schmidt-Trucksäss, Arno, MD, MA*

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: May 2018 - Volume 28 - Issue 3 - p 255–265
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000438
Original Research

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.

*Division of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland;

Center for Healthcare Studies, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois;

Center of Medical Physics and Technology, Hefei Institutes of Physical Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hefei, China; and

§Basel Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

Corresponding Author: Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss, MD, MA, Division of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, University of Basel, Birsstrasse 320 B, 4052 Basel, Switzerland (arno.schmidt-trucksaess@unibas.ch).

This research was funded by the Department of Sport, Exercise and Health of the University of Basel, Switzerland. The e-bikes used in this pilot study were provided by Biketec (Huttwil, Switzerland).

The authors report no conflicts of interest. J. Schäfer has been an employee of F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd since December 1, 2016. The present study was conducted before J. Schäfer joined F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd and has no connection to her employment by the company. This research has not been previously published.

C. Höchsmann and S. Meister contributed equally to this work.

Received December 12, 2016

Accepted March 16, 2017

Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.