Electric bikes can provide an even greater boost to brain function and mental well-being than ordinary bikes, research concludes.
Electric bikes contain motors that provide assistance to the cyclist.
Older people enjoyed using the e-bikes even more than regular bicycles.
The reason is that e-bikes give people confidence that they will be able to complete their ride.
Even without much physical exertion, being outside makes people feel much better, the study found.
Dr. Louise-Ann Leyland, the study’s first author, said:
“It is really encouraging that this research suggests older adults’ cognitive function (particularly what we call executive function as well as processing speed) could be improved by cycling in the natural/urban environment, even when that was on an electrically assisted e-ike.
Furthermore, we found that some aspects of mental health and well-being increased in participants, who cycled on an e-bike for an hour and a half a week for an eight-week period.
This suggests that there may be an impact of exercising in the environment on executive function and mental health. “
The study included 100 people aged 50 to 83 who were asked to do three 30-minute rides per week for 8 weeks.
The results showed that cycling outdoors provides a brain boost, even when people use e-bikes.
Professor Carien Van Reekum, study co-author, said:
“Among the older adults involved in this project, e-bikes have a number of very positive benefits and in some cases even more so than standard cycles.
What surprised us is that these benefits are not only linked to the extra levels of exercise.
We had thought that those who used traditional, pedal-only powered bikes would have the greatest brain and mental health boost, as they would be giving their cardiovascular systems the biggest workout.
Instead, people who used e-bikes told us that they felt more confident in completing the requested activity of three 30-minute rides a week for eight weeks, compared to pedal bikers.
The fact that the group was able to get outside on a bike, even without much physical exertion, is likely to make people feel mentally better.
If having a bit of extra help from an electric motor encourages more people to cycle, the positive effects can be shared across a wider age range and with people who are less confident on a bike.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Leyland et al., 2019).