Published on December 18th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans1
How to Green Your Fitness Routine
Don’t worry that you’re being selfish if looking great, feeling fantastic, and keeping fit are among your priorities—that 30 minutes or more you allot to daily exercise not only helps you look and feel better, it has the potential to positively impact the health and fitness of our environment.
By incorporating a few simple green practices into your workout or favorite sporting activities, you can help to sustain the planet and keep fit at the same time.
The benefits we gain from regular physical exercise are unparalleled—it boosts physical and mental health by offsetting depression, improving self-esteem, controlling weight, and preventing cardiovascular disease and other serious ailments. Whether you are just embarking on an exercise program or have long made fitness a priority, taking steps to green your own fitness plan only increases the benefits to the environment.
A Green and Natural Fit
Going green with your workout routine is easy, fun, and can even improve your social life. Exercising out of doors increases your relationship with and understanding of the natural world, and helps you to establish a connection with your community. Spend a little more time outside and you will likely meet your human neighbors (including fellow outdoor enthusiasts) and the local flora and fauna population. Depending on your climate, you may even want to scratch that gym membership altogether and opt for a no-cost, outdoor-scenery workout.
The easiest way to make your exercise an environmental act is to shift your workout to the out-of-doors. You can replace your routine at a conventional gym and contribute to environmental health by participating in conservation activities such as gardening, hiking, or trail building. Many public spaces and parks depend on volunteers for regular upkeep, and it’s a great way to do your part. Even simply running through a park instead of on a treadmill or going for an actual bike ride not only saves on the electricity bill—it improves your connection with both the environment and your community.
The Green Gym Experience
True “green gym” programs got their start in Europe and they’re now spreading around the globe—some are showing up on the U.S. East Coast. These slightly structured, no-cost programs consist of groups of people who meet generally one to three times per week to get active and have some fun while doing their part for the wellness of the planet. Program activities, such as composting and reforestation efforts, are conservation- and education-oriented. Activities include moderated warm up and cool down exercises. This provides a great way to be out and active in nature, learn something new, and connect with other people who share a desire to improve the condition of the planet. Keep your eyes and ears open for groups in your area or consider doing some research and starting one of your own.
However, there is no reason why your current gym workout cannot be environmentally mindful. Inquire with your gym about recycling programs and installing water-conserving showerheads and low-wattage light bulbs. The New York Sports Clubs have reprogrammed their televisions to automatically turn off when not in use, and you can encourage your local gym to do the same. Also, look for biodegradable and natural cleaning products in the locker rooms and showers. For your part, pay attention to what your wear: Clothing made with organic cotton and other natural fibers can be comfortable, fashionable and green.
Beyond gym membership, a wealth of green clubs and organizations exist to help support your green fitness efforts. One example is Organic Athlete, a global sports club founded by a group of competitive athletes on a mission to promote healthy living, ecological responsibility, and compassion for all life through its activities. Members meet, train, and compete with other athletes who want to make a positive influence on the world through their chosen physical activity—this group takes planetary wellness one step further by avoiding animal products altogether!
Even if you are more of a sports fan than an athlete, you can make sports-related contributions the environment. There are plenty of ways to transform historically energy-consuming sports activities into environmentally friendly ones. In recent years, sports managers and event planners have realized the positive implications of going green.
The green efforts made by the Sydney Olympic committee not only secured a contract for hosting the Games—it served as a flagship for sports managers who want to avoid high capital costs and go green at the same time. The 2000 Olympic Games demonstrated that large scale, energy-intensive projects could easily be made eco-friendly by:
- Decreasing the use of unnecessary building materials
- Implementing solar power
- Reducing energy and water use and overall carbon dioxide emission
- Utilizing recycled building materials
Such progressive thinking boosted both the Olympic Games’ public image and the well-being of both viewers and participants, while demonstrating the multitudinous eco-possibilities to other big-league, big money organizations. Vancouver has since won its 2010 bid for a lucrative Olympic contract with a sustainability plan!
Even the Super Bowl, XGames, Indy Racing League, and World Cup events are getting into the green groove. The big-league, big money sports promoters are making eco-friendly efforts by:
- Encouraging alternative transportation and car-pooling
- Implementing Solar Power
- Planting Trees
- Recycling beverage containers
- Switching race cars to 100 percent ethanol
- Transforming food vendor cooking grease into biodiesel
If your favorite sports franchise, sports club, or local soccer or baseball league is not making efforts along the same lines, write them a letter and lobby your fellow fans and members to do the same.
Tips and Ideas for Green Fitness
- Commute! Get your daily RDA aerobic exercise by riding your bike or walking to work.
- Keep a change of clothes, towel, and toiletries at work to make commuting easy.
- Eat organic energy bars, fresh fruit, and juices to fuel up before or during your workout. Make your own energy bars and save on packaging. Most standard energy bars are made from ingredients you can find at the grocery store.
- Start a garden. Planting, weeding, and tending plants builds in some low-impact exercise. Pruning trees and pulling weeds can have as much benefit as a dumb-bell routine.
- Take a trip to the countryside, national park or local farm instead of the gym and go for a hike.
- Wear organic clothing for exercise activities.
The easiest way to make your exercise an environmental act is to shift your workout to the out-of-doors . . . . [it] not only saves on the electricity bill—it improves your connection with both the environment and your community.
- Get active by joining lobbying efforts such as a local bicycle coalition or park club to advocate for safer bicycle and pedestrian commutes and participate in open-space clean ups.
- Join a public garden or start a community garden in your urban neighborhood.
- Join an environmental group such as the Sierra Club, Organic Athlete, or The Nature Conservancy that sponsors social hikes and outings with other ecologically minded folks.
- Bring your own water bottle and encourage the use of water-saving devices.
- Encourage your local gym to recycle and cut down on electricity use.
- Encourage or look for natural soaps and cleaning agents.
Sustainable Clothing and Gear
- Do not buy bottled water—instead, install a filter at home and fill your own glass, recycled plastic, or reusable stainless steel (rather than aluminum) bottle.
- Shop for animal- and eco-friendly clothing and running shoes. Do not buy leather and research whether or not the manufacture of your running shoes has contributed to environmental damage. Research non-petroleum based materials.
- Wear cotton or hemp clothing whenever possible.