Can electric bikes transform mental health & improve cognition? This study thinks so…

Recent study finds that electric bikes can help to improve cognitive function & mental health in older adults

We’re all well aware of the health benefits that come from exercise - improved vitality, better skin, more energy, weight loss - the list goes on, and you’re probably well aware of most of them. However, did you know that exercise can actually help to improve your cognitive ability?

A recent study conducted as part of the cycle BOOM project has shown that usage of electric bikes can help to improve cognitive function and aid with mental wellbeing in older adults. The results of the study took many of the researchers by surprise, as electric bikes were shown to have more of a positive impact on mental health than a traditional pedal bike, with benefits being shown outside of the ones usually seen from physical activity.

The people who used electric bikes for the study told researchers that they felt more confident in completing the requested physical activity due to the assistance given by the electric bike. Researchers assume that this is due to the fact that electric bikes allowed the users to get outside and enjoy their ride without having to worry too much about physical exertion. They also added that electric bikes might also be useful to wider age ranges and those less comfortable on a bike due to this.

The Study

This study was conducted using 100 participants, with ages ranging from 50-83. 26 participants acted as a control group, 36 were given conventional pedal bikes and a further 38 were given electric bikes.

The cycling participants were then asked to cycle a minimum of three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, for a total of 8 weeks. To measure the impact of and improvements from cycling activity, each person was assessed using a series of psychological tests, but the main ones were:

  • Stroop task
  • Stop-it task
  • PANAS (Positive and negative affect scale)

What is a Stroop task?

A stroop task is a well known psychological experiment, having coined its name from creator John Ridley Stroop. The task involves participants being presented with a colour word in an ink colour that doesn’t correspond to it. For example, the word “red” being written in blue ink.

Users are then assessed on the ‘interference’ noted before being able to name the colour of the word.

What is a stop-it task?

A stop it task is designed to measure reaction/processing speeds. In this study, users would be presented with either a square or a circle on a screen for 1250ms. They were then asked to respond as quickly as possible to the identity of the shape using a ‘square’ or ‘circle’ key. Their reaction times were then recorded.

PANAS Test

 The PANAS (positive and negative affect scale) is a simple test to judge the psychological wellbeing of participants. In this test, participants are given a list of 20 adjectives, and asked to score how they generally feel those adjectives (scored on a scale of 1-5, where 1 is not at all and 5 is extremely). This was conducted before and after the study.

Results

Through the above tests (among others), the study found that usage of an electric bike didn’t just improve cognitive function, it also improved the general mental health of participants. Interestingly, it also found that ebike riders spent more time riding than traditional pedal bike riders - this might be down to the fact that ebikes provide a much more leisurely ride. This means that electric bikes might also encourage increased activity and ride duration.

Stroop Test

As shown in the figure below, participants saw a dramatic decrease in Stroop interference after the 8 week period. This was slightly more pronounced for pedal bikes, but ebikes saw significant improvements also.

Stop-it results

The cycling activity also had a positive impact on response times for stop-it tests, but these results were larger for Electric Bikes over pedal bikes, with users seeing an average of 100ms faster response times after the study.

PANAS Results

In addition to helping to speed up reaction time and improve mental clarity, the study showed that electric bike riding also helped to improve mental wellbeing. The interesting thing to note here, is that electric bikes seem to have affected mental health at a higher rate than pedal bikes, whilst the control group saw a decrease in mental wellbeing.

We’ve always been big believers in the potential positive impacts that electric bikes can bring to everyday life, and we’ve worked hard to make sure our range reflects that. Our Motus, for example, is the ultimate bike for explorers - with so many customisation options and a battery range of up to 110 miles, it’ll be able to support you during those long weekend rides.

If you’re a commuter or short of space then our Stow E Way is the ebike for you - this foldable electric bike comes with a range of up to 50km and can assist you up to 15mph. Looking for something that combines the ultimate in ebike performance with style? Then you’ll love the Centros.

If boosting your mood, improving your health and wellbeing and reducing your carbon footprint is something that you like the sound of, you can find our full range of electric bikes here.

Source - https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211779