Hybrid electric bicycles are helping aging Americans enjoy the simple, healthy pleasure of bicycling well into their golden years. Health professionals agree cycling is a fun way to incorporate exercise into a daily routine. “Bicycling is socially oriented, fun, and gets you outside and exercising,” says Dr. Clare Safran-Norton, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She went on to point out the many benefits of cycling:
- It’s easy on the joints, which makes it good for anyone with joint pain or age-related stiffness.
- It provides an aerobic workout that’s great for your heart, brain, and blood vessels.
- Cycling builds muscle not only in your legs but also core muscles to balance and stay upright.
- It helps with everyday activities like balance, walking, standing, endurance, and stair climbing.
- Pedaling is a resistance activity, which increases bone density.
However, the effects of aging can prove challenging for riders. Kay, who’s now in her 60’s, has been cycling for exercise over 10 years. But after undergoing knee replacement surgery last year, she doesn’t have the strength to climb hills near her home. “I can pedal comfortably on the flat parts of my ride, but need some help getting up the hills.” When a friend introduced Kay to an electric bike, “it was like being a kid again,” she said, “I’m pedaling farther and more confidently than I did before the surgery.”
Hybrid electric bicycles combine pedaling power with an electric motor. Riders can adjust the amount of electric assistance with the touch of a button to get more exercise or more help. “I turn down motor assistance on the flat part of my ride to get more exercise, “ says Kay, “and just use the motor to climb hills.” The electric motor is also helpful in windy conditions, and can help riders go farther and faster than pedaling alone.
Here are some tips for anyone thinking of getting a hybrid electric bike:
- Pick a frame style and size that fits properly, it’s a matter of comfort and safety. Many customers, both men and women, are opting for step through frames that make it easy to get on and off a bike.
- Prices vary from under $2,000 to over $8,000. Visit a bike shop where you can try several brands of electric bikes to get a feel for the different features and riding experience.
- Talk to your bike dealer about features that are important to you. Do you need racks to carry shopping bags, a purse or briefcase? Do you prefer manual or automatic shifting? Do you have steep hills where you live and need a more powerful motor?
- Finally, your local bike shop can help explain relevant laws and regulations. Most states allow hybrid electric bike riders to use the same bikes and trails as bicycles, but not all states do.
For Americans over 50 staying active is important, and cycling is a fun and healthy form of exercise. Hybrid electric bicycles can help make cycling a life-long enjoyment.