Between the usual rush of New Year’s fitness resolutions and watching talented athletes, there’s no shortage of inspiration to get in better shape. But energy-savvy exercisers might be aware that while they’re burning calories on the treadmill, they’re also drawing watts from the grid. So what’s the best way to make sure your workout is as energy efficient as possible?
Go Wireless with Your Equipment
Let’s start with the obvious: you don’t need to worry about energy efficiency when you’re not using any electricity at all. You can get a full-body workout the low-tech way using nothing but your own muscles and body weight — running, jumping jacks, crunches and push-ups can keep you fit in a way that’s completely carbon neutral. Throw in some hand weights, and you’ll feel the burn without adding a dime to your electrical bill.
There are some drawbacks to this old fashioned approach, of course. Not all of these workouts provide the same high-intensity experience of using your favorite exercise machines, and they’re not always as fun. There’s also inclement weather to consider; if it’s freezing cold or pouring rain, it’s much more pleasant to do your running on a treadmill in the comfort of your home or fitness center.
Go to a Green Gym
If the low-tech fitness life isn’t for you and you don’t have the space or budget to build a mini-gym in your home, you can still make a difference by choosing an energy efficient gym. Eco-friendliness is an increasingly important attribute in the fitness center industry as gym operators compete for members who care as much about the size of their carbon footprint as the size of their muscles.
Some fitness centers make energy efficiency their defining characteristic. A prime example is The Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon. Founder Adam Boesel realized that every gym member is a potential energy generator, so he began building prototypes of fitness equipment that can actually capture that energy and convert it to usable electricity. He eventually developed stationary bikes and elliptical machines that “plug out” rather than plug in: when users power these machines, they actually feed electricity back into the grid, where it’s used to power the lights, air conditioning and other systems in the gym. As a result, The Green Microgym offsets its energy consumption by about 85%.
Not all fitness centers are this dedicated to energy efficiency, but many have made conscious efforts through choices like switching to LED lighting, reducing the number of TVs and adding more human-powered equipment. Check the websites of local gyms you’re considering to look for information about energy efficiency, and if you don’t see any, call to inquire. You just might inspire a local business to make some greener decisions in the future.
Use Energy-Efficient Machines at Home
If you’re inclined to get a machine or two of your own, there are some basic guidelines to help you choose the most energy-friendly models.
When it comes to stationary bikes and ellipticals, energy demand is fairly low. There’s no motor, as the user is creating all the motion, and the machine only needs energy for a small computer and possibly a resistance mechanism. Most modern machines use an electromagnetic brake to provide resistance, which will draw a small amount of power. But there are alternatives that require no power at all, such as friction tension systems and air flow resistance.
The one fitness equipment staple that can really get the electrical meter running is the treadmill, because it uses a motor. The amount of energy consumed increases both with the size of the motor and the speed of operation. These motors also become less efficient with age and wear, so your treadmill might use more energy over time.
But there are also completely human-powered versions of this equipment, such as the WOODWAY Curve, which lets runners set the pace and turn the belt with their own two feet.
So whether you save energy the easy way by simply jogging around the block or use your consumer power to choose energy efficient equipment and gyms, all it takes is a little eco-conscious thought to save the planet while getting fit.
Enough reading — let’s get up and move!
Check out more tips for going green at the Direct Energy Blog!