The Journal of eHealth Nursing

 This Month's Featured Online Article 

eHealth In Action: Weight Management Via Web-Biking

Healthcare providers typically prescribe exercise as part of a weight management program for their overweight patients.  Unfortunately, patients often complain that exercise is boring or inconvenient. Providers complain that exercise compliance is frequently compromised. Finding new patient exercise options that are convenient, yet stimulating, remains a challenge for both.

What if you told your patient that they could bicycle through the Alps or along the seaside in Greece whenever they hopped on their stationary bike? Now they can, through the use of an electronic bike, called the web-bike, and a computer with an Internet connection. A recent visit to the INSULA Obesity-Rehabilitation Center in Berchtesgaden, Germany, uncovered the use of an innovative eHealth application that could change the way people exercise (click here to see panoramic view of the INSULA).

The INSULA is a clinic designed to help obese adolescents and young adults lose weight.  Drs. Wolfgang and Alena Siegfried at the INSULA direct the weight loss program, which includes a well designed exercise, nutrition, and counseling program. As part of the exercise program, Dr. Wolfgang Siegfried has developed a unique Internet connected stationary bicycle called a Web-Bike. The Web-Bike projects real time exercise and rider physiological data onto a computer screen that is attached to the web-bike which can then be viewed by the rider as they exercise.

What makes the web-bike so unique is that computer software allows the rider to be transported unto the screen into a virtual bike ride so that the rider experiences the exercise session virtually. The bicyclist can also communicate with other riders utilizing a webcam and microphone. One might feel as if they are bicycling down the Alps or any number of other exciting and beautiful places, choices of which can be selected from an online menu, without ever leaving home.

The riders screen position during the ride is based on the speed the biker pedals and changes throughout the video as the biker’s endurance peaks or wanes. Useful clinical data such as pulse, heart rate and energy output can be projected unto the screen as well as be recorded and stored in a rider’s exercise log.

A Web-Community of Web-Bikers

The web-biker can either use a bicycling video by themselves or share the riding experience with other online web-bikers. Other web-bikers can be connected simultaneously via web connection from any place else in the world. Those that choose to ride with other online web-bikers can interact with other riders using a webcam and microphone. This creates a group bike riding exercise session and allows the user to be part of an online web community of other web-bikers. This approach can increase the pleasure of the riding experience and teens seem to enjoy the thrill of exercise web competition.

The Web-biker: How it Works

The rider or riders mount the stationary bicycle (web-bike) which is connected to the computer.

The rider(s) selects a rider tee shirt color and name and chooses a bike route video s/he wishes to bicycle. If the rider decides to “ride” with others, they meet at an appointed time and ride on bicycle tours (Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, etc.) on their stationary bicycle. Each biker is projected unto the screen into the video with his/her represented t-shirt color and name. This data is sent to the server synchronizing all rider participants. Imagine, virtually riding in the Alps!

The bike ride beings when the web-bike
rider(s) begins to pedal. The person riding the fastest rides ahead of the group and this is shown on the screen.

The bicyclist can talk with others riding using a webcam and microphone. This makes the experience fun and interactive.

Online Exercise Log

During the bicycle tour the rider can monitor the development and progress of their pulse rate and energy output which is projected only on their screen. This data can also be stored in their personal exercise book or log. This creates an on-going record of rider progress with all physiological data which can be reviewed with the provider or trainer to assist in goal setting and monitoring of progress.

Robert’s Story – Age 17 – An Online Exercise Community

"While exercising along, I now have the option of virtually exercising with others.  Without leaving home I can experience the support and encouragement of an online group of exercise friends.  We can compete or just 'hang out' via webcam while enjoying a ride together."  -  Read Robert's story at INSULA in Germany.

The Benefits of the Web-biker Concept

The benefits of the web-biker concept are many including, camaraderie, convenience, and real-time biker physiological data collection. Data collected at the INSULA shows that the concept of a web exercise community fosters weight loss especially in teens.

Other Web-biker Applications – Facilitated Virtual Group Exercise

The web-biker could be of benefit in school health programs, health and fitness clubs and in post-bariatric surgery hospital programs. Imagine school health programs linking with other schools anywhere in the world promoting not only exercise competitions but fostering international friendships. Health and fitness clubs could add new programs that would encourage obese and overweight persons that are too embarrassed to join exercise groups by offering facilitated virtual group exercise. And, hospital post-bariatric programs might enhance their post surgery programs and improve post surgery compliance and results utilizing such a web-bike.

Obviously, use of the web-biker in exercise and weight loss management has great possibilities in promoting exercise to those whose find exercise boring, inconvenient, or embarrassing. Providers and trainers can better assist patients by viewing and monitoring real time exercise data and more accurately prescribe changes to exercise regimens. And, patients can benefit by reducing embarrassment yet receiving encouragement from others as part of an online exercise community.

Improving exercise compliance, the web-biker might just be one way to make it more fun.

For more information regarding the INSULA or the web-biker, Drs Wolfgang and Alena Siegfried can be contacted at or


(c) Copyright 2006, Carol M. Stock & Associates. All rights reserved.