While it is no secret that there are many health benefits to riding an e-bike, the question becomes more layered when specifically considering senior riders.
With age, there generally tends to be more age-related health conditions and issues that come up – decreased mobility, higher risk of illness, and deteriorating cognitive and motor functions are all issues that need to be treated seriously. Ultimately, the heightened risks that come with age do need to be considered before senior people determine which exercise routine is best for them.
That said, e-bike riding is a form of exercise that brings many benefits, particularly for older riders. This article will aim to inform on the top health benefits of e-bike riding for seniors!
1. Riding an e-bike can help prevent diseases
As an exercise that is considered an aerobic sport (source), riding an e-bike helps to improve cardiovascular health (heart, lungs, and blood flow). Because of this, e-bike riding can actually help to prevent conditions like heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and more.
Since many older people have a difficult time finding an exercise that is gentle enough on their bodies and does not exacerbate existing conditions, many are often sedentary in their lifestyle (which can lead to even further health problems).
E-Bikes provide a good balance since riders can use a high level of pedal assist to ensure that they are both getting their exercise in (pedelec e-Bikes still require a pedaling motion to propel forward) without putting unnecessary strain on their bodies.
E-Bike riders can also be customized accordingly, whereas, with a traditional bicycle, this customization is not the case. Regular cardio exercise is also the type of exercise that helps people lose weight, which means that weight-related issues, such as obesity and associated conditions, can be prevented by riding an e-bike.
Regular e-bike rides can help to improve lung capacity, blood pressure, metabolism, and much more. Not only that, but many e-Bike riders have noted that this form of exercise has helped them to massively improve their overall fitness.
Most prominently, a study from the University of Basel (source) showed that riding an electric bicycle is comparable to traditional bikes in its ability to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, even despite the electric assistance feature. This is primarily to do with the fact that e-Bikes allow riders to reach higher biking speeds.
Maintaining an active lifestyle at any age is imperative to supporting and having good overall health, and can even help to manage pre-existing illnesses, which will be explored in the next section.
2. Can help manage existing conditions
One of the downsides of traditional bicycling is that it’s not widely accessible, especially for those who are battling illnesses and physical conditions. Riding for extended periods of time can be very fatiguing and ultimately too difficult for people with conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions related to old age, and can actually risk injury.
However, it is precisely e-bikes’ electric assistance that makes these barriers much easier to overcome. Relying on pedal-assist as needed helps to prevent excess fatigue, and thus contributes to keeping riders motivated for further exercise. Conditions like type II diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis can be managed via regular e-bike rides, which helps to promote weight loss, improved circulation, and flexibility.
Even for elderly people who are dealing with health issues that affect their balance and range of motion (which are important when maneuvering a bicycle), e-bike riding ability for riders to slowly build up strength, endurance, and range of motion has been proven to help improve these age-related issues.
Helping to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Some research even points to e-bike riding as helping to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (source). In 2003, a researcher named Jay Alberts went on a riding trip with a friend who had Parkinson’s. Alberts noticed that the friend, who was riding on the back end of his tandem bicycle, was improving their handwriting and overall motor functions throughout the trip.
Alberts particularly noticed of his friend that she was able to move her legs more quickly on the tandem bicycle with less fatigue and that it was precisely this “faster rate of motion” that helps to manage her symptoms. Alberts then found that this type of movement helps to improve motor functions in Parkinson’s patients by 35%.
Since e-bikes give similar assistance as tandem bikes do – ie. they are not entirely reliant on human power, but give an extra boost – the benefits are similar. Alberts concluded that exercises like riding an electric bicycle allow the elderly, and particularly those affected by neurological conditions, to improve and manage their symptoms via this active lifestyle that does not exacerbate or fatigue them as easily as other exercises.
3. Is a safe and reliable option
Unfortunately, many elderly people have to deal with the fact that they are both limited in terms of physical activities as well as their transportation options. Since driving can often be dangerous as people get older (due to declining vision and motor functions), it often becomes off-limits.
Luckily, e-bike riding has proven to be a safe, effective fitness option for those who are otherwise quite limited. In fact, there have been countless personal accounts of riders who have suffered from major physical injuries or conditions, some of which include chronic pain, joint replacements, back problems, artificial pacemakers, diabetes, artificial limbs, advanced age, and more, who have found that e-bike riding has helped to rehabilitate them because of its easiness of use and ability to ensure less stress on the body.
Many have also noted that while traditional bicycles have put too much strain on their bodies and thus make it hard to rehabilitate, it is e-bike’s electric feature that has actually helped them get back into fitness in ways that many other exercise avenues have not.
Especially since e-bikes encourage an active lifestyle, this means that elderly riders can rely on e-bikes as a reliable form of exercise and thus can help to build up their endurance as well as strength.
E-bike riding has also been proven to be better suited for frequency, as riders of traditional bikes and e-bikes alike have noted that the accessibility of e-bikes makes for heightened reliability. This, in turn, means that riders are encouraged to have a more consistent fitness regime on e-Bikes.
Many older rider accounts have also noted that while hills and uneven terrain were once a major barrier when riding traditional bicycles, e-bike riding has allowed them to overcome those barriers with no issue at all, and has allowed them to commute to work or run errands. This also means that e-Bikes are a safer option that decreases the risk of falling.
4. Improves cognitive function
Studies have shown that using e-bikes can help to improve cognitive function (source). Cognitive functions are the processes that carry out mental tasks of processing information and are also associated with memory, and maintaining good cognition is extremely important for our health. Making sure that your brain is healthy can help to both prevent and manage degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
It has been proven that aerobic exercises have been linked to improving mental functions, and this is primarily because aerobic exercise promotes healthy blood flow (and thus, increased blood flow to the brain). It is this process that then promotes the regeneration of cells to the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is linked to memory. Since riding an e-bike is primarily aerobic exercise, this means that regular e-bike riding can help you to maintain healthy mental cognition.
In fact, one particular study (published in the PLOS One journal – source) has shown that e-Bikes may actually be more beneficial for boosting the brain than traditional bicycles, particularly for riders aged 50+.
The test went as such: researchers tested the cognitive benefits of riding outdoors, measuring the cognitive function among 100 adults ages 50 to 83. None of these participants were regular bike riders, to begin with. These participants were then split into three groups: one group was to ride a traditional bicycle three times a week for 30 minutes per ride, for a duration of eight weeks. The second group was doing the same, on e-bikes. The third group was not to ride at all.
The study ended up showing that while both cycling groups saw significant improvement in cognition, it was surprising to see the e-bike riders showed an equivalent score to traditional bike riders, despite the more physical effort being required on traditional bikes. Not only that, but e-Bike riders also came out of the riding duration having a higher sense of well-being than the other groups.
5. Improves mental health
Riding an e-bike provides a method of transportation to the elderly that brings forward a sense of freedom that might otherwise be taken away from them (especially when the option to drive or walk long distances is no longer an option).
Studies have shown that not only are riders happier after riding their e-bikes but there is a significant improvement in confidence as well. The ability to get outside, even if there is minimal exercise due to increased pedal assist, is very likely to make people feel mentally more healthy.
Riders note that they are able to ride long distances with ease, more regularly, and that it’s been a life-altering experience – not just making them fitter, but also helping to raise spirits and get them out of the house.
Read also: Tips from Experts: The Best Hobbies for Seniors (from Porch.com) – in this article.
Even accounts of riders who were previously traditional bike riders in their younger years have noted that the pedal assist makes a world of difference in accessibility for them now. Unfortunately, even for avid cyclists, older age can make it harder to use traditional bikes, as it requires a great deal of energy and effort that may become more fatiguing and even risky with age.
Not only does riding an e-bike make this activity easier again, but it enables riders to get out into the sunshine and get a healthy dose of Vitamin D (which is proven to be linked to improving moods – source), fresh air that can bring about mental clarity, and happiness in enjoying the scenery. Riders across the board have been unafraid to state that the excitement and joy they get from e-bike rides are unrivaled.
6. Is good for your joints
As it stands, cycling is a low-impact sport. E-bike riding is an even more low-impact exercise option and is widely recommended for anyone dealing with any type of physical barrier, whether age-related or not. The many accounts of riders dealing with joint replacements, arthritis, and various other barriers in conjunction with old age who have found a new way of life in riding an electric bicycle are extremely encouraging and help to further showcase how reliable an option of e-bike riding is for senior riders.
One of the many benefits of riding an e-bike is that it covers a lot of ground without putting much stress on your joints. Since cycling on an e-bike requires very little pressure on the knees and hips and even less on the feet (particularly due to the consistent cyclical forward motion of pedaling), it is an aerobic sport that is great for the joints.
Even in comparison to an exercise like walking, walking on pavement can be very hard on the knees, feet, and hips – thus, e-bike riding offers an option that is beneficial to overall fitness while ensuring little pressure is being put on the joints.
The electric assistance feature on e-bikes is also particularly beneficial for riding up hills and uneven terrain, as those are areas that can cause higher resistance and thus can be hard on the joints if riding a traditional bicycle. Pedal-assist gives riders the extra boost they need to tackle these barriers without the high-impact stress, and overall offers a smoother ride to elderly riders.
Not only that, but those suffering from joint problems – which is a typical side effect of aging – need to keep active in order to ensure that further damage or decreased range of motion does not happen. Thus, e-bike riding provides the right balance between staying active and keeping joints healthy, while simultaneously ensuring that the activity is not so stressful that it further injures or exacerbates the problem.
7. Can improve the overall quality of life
Many e-bike riders who are in their 60s+ have personally noted that they have been able to recover from incidents like car accidents, injuries, and other conditions through riding their e-bikes. Not only does this rehabilitative form of exercise help to bring motion and activity back into people’s lives, but granting the ability to commute enables riders to actively be a part of their community.
Whether this is traveling to work, visiting friends or family, grocery shopping, running errands, or riding an e-bike alongside riding partners, the social aspect is a huge benefit of e-bike riding and is in fact necessary for the wellbeing of humans.
Many have also noted that riding an e-bike, as opposed to driving a car and being in an enclosed space, has helped to open them up to their surroundings, and even their own selves.
It’s important to remember, even for those who are not yet dealing with a decrease in mobility and freedom, that having some form of independence is extremely important to maintaining one’s mental and physical health.
Having and keeping independence, at least to some degree, massively contribute to the way one’s confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem levels are. Since e-bike riding is a form of exercise that is very accessible to riders of all ages, and in fact caters to those who may be dealing with physical barriers, it is a form of exercise that inherently promotes independence.
E-bike riding allows riders to explore their natural surroundings and take part in social interactions that may be difficult to do otherwise. This inevitably helps to improve one’s quality of life, particularly if you are an elderly person who is otherwise confined to your house or retirement home.
A few words in conclusion
One of the most daunting downsides of aging is ultimately that of decreased freedom and mobility, and increased vulnerability in various ways. The fact that so many have commented on how riding an e-bike has opened up their worlds again and has offered so many physical and mental benefits, goes to show how ideal this form of exercise is for senior riders.
Riding an e-bike helps to extend the life of physical activity for many elderly people, and can certainly be relied on as a safe and effective form of exercise.