Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode

Abstract

Introduction

Pedelecs are bicycles that provide electric assistance only when a rider is pedaling and have become increasingly popular.

Purpose

Our purpose was to quantify usage patterns over 4 weeks of real-world commuting with a pedelec and to determine if pedelec use would improve cardiometabolic risk factors.

Methods

Twenty sedentary commuters visited the laboratory for baseline physiological measurements [body composition, maximum oxygen consumption (\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} { \hbox{max} }\)), mean arterial blood pressure (MAP), blood lipid profile, and 2-h oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)]. The following 4 weeks, participants were instructed to commute using a pedelec at least 3 days week−1 for 40 min day−1 while wearing a heart rate monitor and a GPS device. Metabolic equivalents (METS) were estimated from heart rate data. Following the intervention, we repeated the physiological measurements.

Results

Average total distance and time were 317.9 ± 113.8 km and 15.9 ± 3.4 h, respectively. Participants averaged 4.9 ± 1.2 METS when riding. Four weeks of pedelec commuting significantly improved 2-h post-OGTT glucose (5.53 ± 1.18–5.03 ± 0.91 mmol L−1, p < 0.05), \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} { \hbox{max} }\) (2.21 ± 0.48–2.39 ± 0.52 L min−1, p < 0.05), and end of \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} { \hbox{max} }\) test power output (165.1 ± 37.1–189.3 ± 38.2 W, p < 0.05). There were trends for improvements in MAP (84.6 ± 10.5–83.2 ± 9.4 mmHg, p = 0.15) and fat mass (28.6 ± 11.3–28.2 ± 11.4 kg, p = 0.07).

Conclusion

Participants rode a pedelec in the real world at a self-selected moderate intensity, which helped them meet physical activity recommendations. Pedelec commuting also resulted in significant improvements in 2-h post-OGTT glucose, \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} { \hbox{max} }\), and power output. Pedelecs are an effective form of active transportation that can improve some cardiometabolic risk factors within only 4 weeks.

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Abbreviations

BMI:

Body mass index

DXA:

Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry

GXT:

Graded exercise test

HDL:

High-density lipoprotein

HOMA:

Homeostasis model assessment

LDL:

Low-density lipoprotein

MAP:

Mean arterial blood pressure

METS:

Metabolic equivalents

OGTT:

Oral glucose tolerance test

RPE:

Rating of perceived exertion

\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{ 2} { \hbox{max} }\) :

Maximum oxygen consumption

WHO:

World Health Organization

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Acknowledgments

Funding for the study was provided by NIH Grant UL1 TR000154, NIH Grant UL1 TR001082, the City of Boulder, and Skratch Labs LLC. The authors thank the staff at the University of Colorado Boulder Clinical Translational Research Center for their assistance in collecting the data, Pete’s Electric Bikes and Elevation Cycles for assistance with the pedelecs, Kevin J. Krizek for assistance in securing funding, and the participants for volunteering their time.

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Correspondence to James E. Peterman.

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The authors have no conflict of interests to declare.

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Communicated by Jean-René Lacour.

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Peterman, J.E., Morris, K.L., Kram, R. et al. Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode. Eur J Appl Physiol 116, 1565–1573 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-016-3408-9

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Keywords

  • Electric assist bicycle
  • Intervention
  • Transportation
  • Cycling
  • Active commuting