Are gyms eco-friendly?

Time to run from the 'deadmill' gym treadmill

People nowadays are more concerned about their health and are going to the gym to achieve their fitness goals. Many exercisers find that running on a treadmill is easier, and therefore more preferable, than running outdoors. Those who face seasonal allergies or live in cold temperatures seem to have no option but to remain indoors for their workouts. There is also a sense of encouragement from joining a gym. By getting on the treadmill at their local club, they are now a part of a group who strive to be healthy. But by jumping on a piece of exercise equipment they may be helping their bodies but are harming the environment.

While the treadmills these gym-goers choose appear to be rather simple machines that wouldn’t require high amounts of power, one treadmill can burn the equivalent of fifteen 75-Watt light bulbs while in use. Most people would never want to have five lights on in their house, let alone fifteen, yet most people have no problem using a treadmill. While most treadmills are not constantly running, treadmills and other equipment still use energy while in standby mode. Some local gyms are also crowded enough that their machines are in almost constant use, burning large amounts of energy. The temperature raises in the gym, causing the use of fans and air conditioning in addition to the level that it is constantly running at. The lights at most gyms are consistently on and using electricity, even if no one is working out. The soda vending machine alone at a local gym can use about 10 times the amount of a home refrigerator.

An amazing alternative to the conventional gym is the Green Gym, a concept that allows gentle exercise out in the countryside in fresh air. Green Gyms involve members ‘working out’ by planting trees, rebuilding damaged forest footpaths or rebuilding walls. Participants have been found to exercise moderately over a period of about four hours – equivalent to a short session on a treadmill. However, the advantage is that the air is completely pure and, more importantly, the energy expended goes into producing a tangible product. This form of gentle exercise has been found to reduce heart attacks and strokes by about 50%.

Mental health organizations have commented on the well-being effects of the Green Gym. They say that people have a natural biological attraction to nature, which is often referred to as biophilia. Connecting with the natural environment can have therapeutic benefits and can significantly lower stress levels. Not only that, it can improve physical health too.

Carbon-neutral gyms are also starting to appear around the world. Many of these have environmental policies that aim to reduce waste, increase recycling and encourage users to think about the effects of their workout on the environment. Some gyms are even levying a charge on users so that tree planting projects can be resourced. One gym is able to reclaim over 800 cubic metres of rainwater from the roof. This is enough to fill their 25metre swimming pool.

So, going to the gym on a regular basis can have a great effect on your health and body. But it comes at a cost. For the discerning environmentalist, using a gym may be an acceptable option, but it is always a good idea to check that the establishment has an environmental policy, with aims and objectives clearly stated.