Turn exercise into green energy

It’s easy to let the winter blues derail your health and fitness efforts. If you’ve fallen off the fitness wagon and regret purchasing that gym membership or the new stationary bike for your basement exercise room, remember to keep your chin up and hop right back on.

The fitness world, like many sectors, thrives on our trials and errors. But its latest experiment is focused on the environment and that’s something we applaud. Increasingly but slowly, the fitness industry is looking at green-powered exercise equipment that converts your sweat into electricity that’s fed back to the grid, offsetting energy use.

This notion of using kinetic energy gained wide media attention in 2007 when a Hong Kong gym attached a generator to 18 exercise machines. Today a number of manufacturers such as Florida’s ReRev are producing technology that allows the conversion of fitness equipment. When you generate movement on, say, an elliptical trainer, that 30-minute work-out translates into enough power to charge a cell phone six times or a desktop computer for 30 minutes.

While retrofitting fitness equipment or acquiring green equipment is not cheap, it is likely the way of the future as gyms work to market their services in an increasingly competitive marketplace. In fact, proponents say it’s just a matter of time until green fitness equipment goes mainstream, sort of like compact fluorescent bulbs and solar power. As green work-out equipment becomes more popular and inexpensive, its appeal will widen beyond super-ecoconscious consumers.

While pedal power is not a new concept, the theory is widely applauded and is likely spawning new and inventive approaches to the notion of staying fit the green way. Here are a few ways you can do the same:

Stay outside – No need to play couch potato because you can’t find a nearby green gym in which to work out. Try outdoor boot camps and fitness classes or use GreenGym fitness equipment, which has been installed in nearly 200 parks and schools across the country. The equipment uses your own body weight for resistance and, best of all, it’s free.

When cold, sleet or snow isn’t impeding you, try on a pair of runners and go for a jog. If you’re not a runner, take in local hiking trails, take your mountain bike out for a spin or just walk during part of your lunch hour or during one of your breaks.

Hop off the treadmill – While treadmills are a gym’s most popular fitness machines, you’re better to stay off of them if you worry about carbon footprints at all. The average treadmill uses 600 to 700 watts of energy or the equivalent of using a desktop computer for one month. As these machines age, energy consumption can climb by as much as 30 per cent.

Try bikes and ellipticals – In the realm of fitness equipment these are the Holy Grail. These machines need only a sixth or a seventh of the energy used by treadmills. Many modern elliptical trainers and stationary bikes generate their own power, which is enough to run the brake and electronic display. Another innovative product is the WaterRower, a rowing machine that requires no electricity and is constructed from renewable hardwoods.

Two-in-one – We sit too much and it’s killing us, say health and fitness experts. While work often means sitting at a computer, there are alternatives. The standing work station allows you to stand all day if you choose. There’s even a bike that doubles as a desk. If that’s too rigorous, how about the kneeling chair or the balance-ball chair? Both let you take a load off while activating certain muscles and removing strain on others.

There’s a plethora of fitness gear that doubles as home or office furniture. If that doesn’t grab you, how about combining strength training with some cardio? All you need is a little space and a mat.

Isn’t it great when the sweat on your brow doubles to make the planet more sustainable? Talk about green sweat equity.

 The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provide a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to Realtors across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494; Emailelden@nagab.org.

Chrisoula Mouhteros

Chrisoula Mouhteros

Sales Representative
CENTURY 21 Leading Edge Realty Inc., Brokerage*
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