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Written by Miranda Huey   
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Friday, 21 November 2008

Gyms Get Sustainable!

Green gyms are popping up all over the world. It's no surprise that yet another kind of building is “going green”. How are green gyms any different? A unique and key feature of green gyms is that they can actually use the energy generated from people exercising and use that to power their facilities.

The problem most health clubs in the United States have right now is that, compared to other countries, they waste excessive amounts of both energy and water.1 Treadmills alone use around 1500 watts, the same amount of energy to power 15 incandescent bulbs.2 Most stationary bikes are extremely inefficient and dissipate about 90% of the energy used as heat. Most exercise machines, television sets, fans, and stereos are left on all day.3 Towels get used only once before they're washed and dried.4 Green gyms, on the other hand, make an effort to conserve energy and water, while ensuring that the energy they do use is sustainable and renewable. For some gyms, it's a way to save on their utility bill. For others, it's a way to attract eco-minded customers. Plus, for customers, it's a way to get fit while simultaneously doing something good for the environment. There's no better incentive than knowing that the more you exercise, the more you help the environment.

Eco-friendly gyms have been popping up worldwide. Hong Kong's California Fitness gym was the first gym with the idea to power the gym's lighting using only the human power of exercise. Within the United States, the Green Microgym was inspired by the Hong Kong gym and decided to become the first human-powered gym in the Nation. Located in Portland, Oregon, this gym is almost entirely self-sufficient. To achieve this, it utilizes both solar power and human-powered exercise equipment. Spin bikes are connected to a generator which charges a battery, which then gets used to power the gym's televisions, stereos, and lights. But there are many things which make this gym a couple shades greener than the original idea. The gym also has treadmills with energy-efficient motors, energy-efficient fans, refurbished and used equipment, bamboo mountain bikes, on demand water heaters, and environmentally friendly cleaning products.5

As if that weren't enough, in a village in Spain, a retired gym teacher decided to build a green gym in the village to help attract tourism. What's so special about this green gym? Truly, it contains all the same equipment you'd expect in a normal gym, including ellipticals, bicycles, and cross-training gym equipment. But there are two major differences. First, the entire gym is outdoors, in the middle of a grassy field. Second, all the exercise equipment is made of recycled materials, mostly lumber and other random things found in a junkyard.6 It may just look like a convoluted wooden playground, but its degree of sustainability may make it the greenest gym in the world.

In the United Kingdom and Australia, green gyms operate a little differently than they do in the US. The Green Gym is a volunteering project which hopes to get people from their local area not just to exercise, but do practical environmental or gardening work7 such as clearing streams or helping to build a community garden. They usually consist of a 3-4 hour session, starting out with some warm-up exercises. Then, while putting the volunteers to work, a group leader teaches them some of the skills and techniques on how to take care of the local environment.8 The real perk is that exercise sessions are free.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a green gym close to home. If you like the idea of green exercise, but want to be able to stay in the comfort of your own home, why not have a green home gym? After all, you would already be saving the environment from any transportation energy that you would use to get to a gym. You can buy this manual treadmill, which uses no electricity, for only $150 USD: Or, if you own a bicycle, you can buy your own stationary bike power generator for about $379:

Green gyms may be a relatively new idea, but they seem to be a big success so far. Hopefully, a green gym will soon be coming to a city near you!

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Last Updated ( Friday, 19 October 2012 )