I once heard someone say: “I never understand the people who get in their car, drive to a gym, and then run a treadmill for an hour, only to get back in their car and drive home. Why not run to the gym instead?”
As someone who has logged a fair number of kilometers on a gym treadmill, I was struck by the imbalance between personal health and environmental health. I was keeping my body healthy, but by driving my car, I was contributing negatively to the environment.
Did you know, treadmills alone use around 1500 watts, the same amount of energy to power 15 incandescent bulbs? And think about all the exercise equipment and televisions that are left on all day long at a gym.
Instead of bringing a disposable plastic water bottle to the gym, use a reusable thermos. Can you use a reusable towel to wipe down equipment, instead of using disposable paper towels? And if you enjoy a smoothie at the end of your workout, use a reusable cup instead of a Styrofoam cup that ends up in the garbage.
Going to the gym isn’t the only way to stay fit, of course.
In the Fort McMurray area of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Alberta, is an Outdoor Green Gym. This gym, open from spring to fall, features 14 stations with over 50 pieces of outdoor fitness equipment. Each piece of equipment uses body weight resistance, and includes air walkers, ellipticals, spinners, leg presses and hand bikes. Much of this equipment is made by a Canadian company, Green Gym. Similarly, New York City has recently introduced an outdoor adult playground.
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend children from ages 5 to 17 “should accumulate 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.” Being outdoors helps make this possible. In 2011, representatives of Take Me Outside ran across Canada in an effort to raise awareness about outdoor education, and the need for children and youth to be outside, active, and connected to the environment.
I am really struck by the UK’s Dr. William’s Bird efforts to get people outdoors. He developed a concept of “outdoor gyms” when trying to encourage his diabetic patients to exercise more. Instead of heading to indoor gyms, groups get together to “work out” while volunteering on conservation projects like clearing scrubland, path building, and tree planting. What a fabulous idea for family and friends here in Canada!
If you work out at home, and you have home gym equipment that you no longer need anymore, consider selling them to a reuse store like Play It Again Sports or donate them to a local reuse charity. Always check beforehand whether the organization can accept your item.
Your gym shoes don’t have to go to waste either. Running Free has drop-off bins located in their stores to collected paired older runners, which are reused for community services and development programs. Nike even has a used shoe recycling program although it is only available in British Columbia.
“You can make your workout greener by choosing an alternate mode of transportation that can double as exercise. Celebrate Recreation and Parks Month by “biking it” around your community,” said Tracy Hasselfeldt, Recreation Coordinator with the Town of Milton. “We have some helpful suggestions for exploring community parks, trails and facilities on wheels to enjoy a greener workout all summer long.”
Another local program, Count Your Steps, is a pedometer lending program supported by the four local library systems. Why not count your steps as you walk throughout your community?
So hopefully this summer (and fall, winter and spring), I’ll be making my workouts green by exercising outdoors in my great neighbourhood. What things do you do to make your workouts more green?