Since The Industrial Revolution, the way people around the world, especially those in first world countries, determine their diet has shifted drastically. While centuries ago, human beings were considered either hunters or gatherers, in many countries today the masses enjoy hundreds of food options. With this blessing has come the somewhat ironic dilemma of maintaining healthy eating habits. Conventional wisdom suggests that good-old-fashioned, natural or “real foods,” so to speak, are always better than machine-made, processed “fake foods.”

Would a similar sentiment be true regarding fitness? Perhaps the knee-jerk reaction is to assume the answer is “yes,” but new research out of the University of Zurich published in Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives indicates that such assumptions may prove premature, if not inaccurate altogether, according to an article this week from Bicycling.com. Story author Jordan Smith explained the significance of the study’s findings, writing:

E-bikes seems to get a bad rap. Some claim the motor-assisted bike is giving you the easy way out. So are you selling your workout—and your fitness levels—short when you hop on one?

Researchers at the University of Zurich set out to answer this. They gave an initial survey, and subsequently followed up every two weeks for nearly a year to over 10,000 riders who rode electric bikes and conventional bikes. Participants logged their time in metabolic equivalent task (MET) minutes per week. (Moderate intensity physical activity is defined as those which hit 3 to 6 METs, which can be a leisurely riding pace of about 5.5 to just under 10 mph. Riding at 15 mph will give you a MET-level of 10.)

Results published in Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives showed that many e-bike users tended to use regular bikes, too. In fact, e-bike users tended to ride both an e-bike or a conventional bike for longer periods of time than people who just rode conventional bikes, study author Alberto Castro Fernández, Ph.D., explained to Bicycling. Additionally, trips of e-bikers using e-bikes and conventional bicycles are longer in terms of time and distance compared to non-e-bikers.

Those who rode e-bikes reported longer average trip distances for both e-bike (9.4K) and conventional bike trips (8.4K), while their conventional cycling counterparts logged shorter trips (4.8K). Additionally, daily travel distances for e-bikers averaged 8K while conventional cyclists recorded 5.3K.

There are of course, many other factors to consider in pursuit of answering the broader question, and certainly a study focused on one form of exercise is insufficient to prove machine fitness is better than outdoor exercise, but those who prefer to workout indoors need not feel as if they are compromising on the numerous health benefits that accompany an active lifestyle.

To read Smith’s full writeup, click here.