Potential of electric bicycles to improve the health of people with Type 2 diabetes: a feasibility study

Diabet Med. 2018 May 8;35(9):1279-1282. doi: 10.1111/dme.13664. Online ahead of print.


Aim: To explore in a feasibility study whether 'e-cycling' was acceptable to, and could potentially improve the health of, people with Type 2 diabetes.

Methods: Twenty people with Type 2 diabetes were recruited and provided with an electric bicycle for 20 weeks. Participants completed a submaximal fitness test at baseline and follow-up to measure predicted maximal aerobic power, and semi-structured interviews were conducted to assess the acceptability of using an electric bicycle. Participants wore a heart rate monitor and a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver in the first week of electric bicycle use to measure their heart-rate during e-cycling.

Results: Eighteen participants completed the study, cycling a median (interquartile range) of 21.4 (5.5-37.7) km per week. Predicted maximal aerobic power increased by 10.9%. Heart rate during electric bicycle journeys was 74.7% of maximum, compared with 64.3% of maximum when walking. Participants used the electric bicycles for commuting, shopping and recreation, and expressed how the electric bicycle helped them to overcome barriers to active travel/cycling, such as hills. Fourteen participants purchased an electric bicycle on study completion.

Conclusions: There was evidence that e-cycling was acceptable, could increase fitness and elicited a heart rate that may lead to improvements in cardiometabolic risk factors in this population. Electric bicycles have potential as a health-improving intervention in people with Type 2 diabetes.