Green Your Workout

By Sharon Naylor

October 2, 2009 6 min read

Working out is essential to your health, and with some smart steps, you can make your fitness plan eco-friendly, as well as more enjoyable and affordable, which may be just the motivation you need to get moving every day. Here are some top tips for greening your workout:

*Get moving without machines

Electric fitness machines, such as treadmills and elliptical trainers, use energy, so avoid plug-in equipment as much as possible. Brian Thompson, editor of Green Fitness World says: "Make body-weight exercises your friend. For green fitness, perform body-weight exercises that build muscle. Start with the basics: push-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats, lunges and sprints." With weight-bearing exercise, you save the earth and burn more calories as you build muscle and bone strength.

*Bike to work

Thompson advises to travel by foot or bicycle as much as possible when it comes to your work commute. Choosing non-car transportation prevents unhealthy emissions and "allows you to get in a workout in case you don't have time that day. Biking to work is easy and efficient," says Thompson.

Avital Binshtock -- lifestyle editor of Sierra magazine and its popular blog, The Green Life -- agrees, saying that a new provision in the Obama administration's stimulus plan adds an extra perk to the eco-friendly practice of riding your bike to work instead of driving, eliminating your car's emissions. "Those who opt to commute by bike may be eligible for a $20-per-month benefit, paid by employers who participate in the plan," she says. "Just let your company know that you'll bike to work" and you might double the perks of your greener workout plan and get healthier in the process.

*Take it outside

Thompson says: "Perform weight-bearing exercises in your environment. Utilize hills, trees, lakes and parks for your workout." Gorgeous outdoor scenery connects you with nature, requires no cost and opens up a wide variety of exciting seasonal sports, such as biking, swimming, skiing and snowboarding.

For a green workout that saves you money, shovel your driveway with an actual shovel, not a pollution-emitting snowblower, and do your own landscaping and lawn care for a great workout that improves the value of your home.

Dog owners say they've replaced their energy-guzzling treadmill sessions with long, healthy walks with their pets, which is beneficial to both dog and owner. Check your city's Web site or local tourism site for free trail maps and pet-friendly parks and dog runs. And don't forget to bring a ball or Frisbee for pet playtime, also a free and green workout.

*Green at the gym

If you prefer the atmosphere of a gym or fitness center or if you already are locked into a membership contract for the year, green options abound. A growing number of fitness centers have adopted green philosophies, with upgraded recycling programs, compact fluorescent light bulbs, green cleaning supplies and high-tech gadgetry, such as televisions that turn off when not in use.

"Some gyms are now offering eco-friendly fitness machines, such as stationary bicycles that power the electricity in the gym," says Binshtock. To find these forward-thinking gyms in your area, visit the Sierra Club Web site's green fitness section.

*Green your fitness gear

When it comes to your fitness gear, you'll find plenty of eco-friendly products from which to choose. Consider hand-held fitness tools, such as exercise balls, Pilates toning rings, resistance bands and hand weights, which are now available in organic materials. Natural Fitness offers fitness balls in natural materials, free of polyvinyl chloride and phthalates, which the medical community warns are health hazards. The company adds yet another perk to your greening your fitness gear: For each eco-foam-based fitness mat you purchase, the company plants a tree to offset eco-harm.

Gaiam's Web site is another top source of green workout gear, with recyclable yoga mats, as well as yoga bags made from organic fabrics.

Your workout clothes are also available in organic materials to eliminate the eco-danger of petroleum-based synthetic fabrics. At a range of natural living sites -- such as http://www.gaiam.com -- and even at department stores, you'll find workout clothes made from organic cotton, soy, bamboo and Cocona, which is a soft fabric made from coconut shells. The green clothing movement has gone mainstream, making it easy and affordable for you to green your workout wardrobe.

*Green your gulp

We all know that plastic water bottles are evil. According to Gaiam, more than 86 percent of post-consumer plastic bottles wind up in landfills, where they may take more than 1,000 years to biodegrade. So replace those plastic drink bottles with eco-friendly stainless steel bottles, which many say are preferable to the lighter aluminum bottles lined with a plastic that may leach harmful toxins into your drink. Stick with organic drinks and power bars to green your nutrition, and check out expert taste and health ratings of organic foods and drinks at http://www.greenopia.com.

*Green your fitness group

Join eco-conscious fitness groups -- such as walking, jogging and biking clubs -- that gather to share their dedication to sports and turn workouts into enjoyable social occasions. Can't find a group? Start one with friends and neighbors to spread the green fitness trend in your own circle.

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