Published on March 14th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans3
If gardening as a form of physical activity appeals to you or if you’re just looking for a way to connect more with the earth on a personal level, consider joining a green gym—or starting one in your neighborhood if you live in the U.S…
Green gyms are currently abundant in Great Britain (though some are popping up on the U.S. East Coast). These gyms provide a fun, socially interactive environment that offers a great way to get fit and connect with people in your community who are interested in doing something great for the planet.
BTCV is a conservation charity in Britain that runs Green Gyms, local programs whereby you are led through some warm-up exercises followed by conservation or gardening work at your own speed, with the guidance of a trained leader.
Green Gyms are a great way to take care of yourself and the planet at the same time. According to BTCV’s website, “Physically active people are up to 50% less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke, but over 70% of us are not active enough to benefit.”
You might not think of planting a garden as exercise, but that’s exactly the point—you don’t need to be pumping iron all the time to leading an active lifestyle. Digging, raking, and hoeing are in fact moderate exercise, and they have the added benefits of cultivating connections with your community and making the planet a healthier place for all.
What If You Can’t Live Without Your Treadmill?
Joining a gym, of course, gives you many options for creating a varied and well-rounded workout, as well as the trained, professional staff who are sometimes needed in order to motivate you and guide your fitness routine. Not to mention, a gym membership might be the only way you can squeeze enough exercise into your busy schedule, especially if you live in a city subject to seasons of heavy snow or rainfall.
There are things you can do to green your workout routine even if you can’t live without a treadmill or stationary cycle and a cleansing post-workout steam bath…
- For starters, walk or bike to the gym to warm-up and save fossil fuels, use your own refillable water bottle, and bring your own towel. Plastic bottles may be recyclable, but why use them in the first place if you don’t have to? Bringing your own towel allows you to wash it at home in your own eco-friendly laundry detergent and at your chosen energy-conserving wash temperature.
- You can talk with your gym’s managers about using environmentally friendly detergents and cleaners instead of harsh chemicals like bleach. While you’re on the eco-transformation campaign trail, tell them about the option to have renewable energy sources to power treadmills and TVs and heat showers and spas.
If you’re on a treadmill a lot and you’d like to balance out the eco impact, consider buying wind energy credits to offset the time you spend at the gym. Show it to your gym’s managers if you’d like to politely request that they take similar action.
- Don’t waste batteries in a CD player: pick up rechargeable batteries or get an mp3 player with a built-in rechargeable. You can even go one step further with a solar device charger so you are using 100% clean and free energy to listen to your workout soundtrack.
- Another great reason to join a gym is for access to a pool—though many communities do have swimming pools you can visit for a per-visit admission fee. Swimming is a great, low-impact exercise, meaning that it takes less of a toll on your body than other intensive, high energy workouts.
But chlorine and other chemicals in pool water can be harmful to the earth … and your health. Salt water systems cut down on evaporation, saving water, and have fewer chemicals than chlorine systems, so they’re a step in the right direction. Switching to a chemical-free cleaning system may be a long-term goal for your gym, but active interest can often inspire quick results.
The Green Gym of the Future
Imagine a gym that was able to take all of the energy you’re expending during your workout and convert it into energy to power the very machines you’re using. Sounds futuristic, you say? Not quite—there are already gyms doing just that, at least partially.
One Hong Kong gym has launched a program called “Powered by YOU” that uses cycling and cross-training machines hooked up to power generators so exercisers can power the lights while staying fit. According to the gym, one person can generate as much as 50 watts of power in an hour—the knowledge that they are saving fossil fuels from being burned is a great motivator.
Seattle, Washington is home to a “micro-gym” that has applied these same concepts, using a wind turbine’s generator motor and a spinning bike to power the gym’s music system. Gyms that are powered exclusively by calories—probably supplemented with solar or wind energy, but at any rate using no fossil fuels—are not unthinkable and perhaps even imminent.
Be part of the change you want to see made in the world and talk with your gym’s managers about steps they can take in the earth-friendly direction. You never know—your gym may the first to go completely green!
Even if you are an avid gym-goer and active advocate for implementing eco-friendly innovations, remember to get outside once and a while, because nothing compares with being out in nature and breathing in fresh air as you workout.