NASA's first space station, Skylab, was outfitted with all the latest scientific equipment, along with a bicycle ergometer. This is a computer-controlled, precision electronic bicycle trainer that measures the body's workload efficiency and allows for continuous monitoring of respiratory and other physiological effects. Found in universities, sports science labs, bicycle coaching, testing centers and space, the bicycle ergometer is used to test and study human biomechanics of locomotion and fitness.
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A bicycle ergometer is used to evaluate the fitness level of an individual or athlete. The test subject rides the bicycle while connected to monitoring equipment. This equipment measures heart rate, pulse, metabolic changes and respiratory effects of exercise. This type of testing can be used to evaluate the fitness level of the general population, individuals or specific groups of people with various physical conditions. One study, conducted by Henning Lohmann and published in the November 2010 issue of the “BMC Family Practice,” used the bicycle ergometer to measure and track the fitness level of patients with type 2 diabetes.
Elite athletes and sports centers use bicycle ergometers as a training tool to plan programs. The athlete rides the bicycle ergometer while connected to monitoring equipment. This measures oxygen economy, lactate threshold, oxygen consumption at lactate threshold, maximal lactate steady state and peak power output, according to Peak Performance. Exercise physiologists use these assessments to plan training programs and as markers for future evaluations.
Gradual changes in individual patient work capacity are a way to regulate physical rehabilitation. The patient can slowly increase the physical workload at a controlled pace using a measurement-control unit with a bicycle ergometer. A study headed by Zhihui Wang and published in the June 2005 issue of the “Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation” evaluated wearable measurement and monitoring control units adapted to the bicycle ergometer. The study concluded that wearable measurement units for bicycle ergometers are effective in health promotion and rehabilitation.
Functional Movement Testing
Bicycle ergometers are used on patients with neurologic impairments to test functional movement tasks such as limb position sense. A study published in the 2003 issue of the “Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy” evaluated 16 patients using a bicycle ergomenter while attempting to identify when their foot hit a specified target region. The test concluded the limb position sense test using the bicycle ergometer was highly reliable and revealed movement and phase-dependent position sense.