Electrically assisted bicycles (e-bikes) have been highlighted as a method of active travel that could overcome some of the commonly reported barriers to cycle commuting. The objective of this systematic review was to assess the health benefits associated with e-cycling.
A systematic literature review of studies examining physical activity, cardiorespiratory, metabolic and psychological outcomes associated with e-cycling. Where possible these outcomes were compared to those from conventional cycling and walking. Seven electronic databases, clinical trial registers, grey literature and reference lists were searched up to November 2017. Hand searching occurred until June 2018. Experimental or observational studies examining the impact of e-cycling on physical activity and/or health outcomes of interest were included. E-bikes used must have pedals and require pedalling for electric assistance to be provided.
Seventeen studies (11 acute experiments, 6 longitudinal interventions) were identified involving a total of 300 participants. There was moderate evidence that e-cycling provided physical activity of at least moderate intensity, which was lower than the intensity elicited during conventional cycling, but higher than that during walking. There was also moderate evidence that e-cycling can improve cardiorespiratory fitness in physically inactive individuals. Evidence of the impact of e-cycling on metabolic and psychological health outcomes was inconclusive. Longitudinal evidence was compromised by weak study design and quality.