Eco-chic fitness studios are sprouting up across the country, with sustainable features like a sod-covered roof that conserves rainwater (atop Green Fitness Studio in Brooklyn) and stationary bikes that produce electricity (at EcoPower Fitness in Portland, Oregon). But even if you don't belong to an earth-friendly facility, you can go green at the gym—and improve your workouts—with these tips.

Increase the Incline
Treadmills are the biggest power suckers of all the cardio machines, guzzling about 650 watts (13 times what ellipticals use), says Greg Law, vice president of engineering at the exercise equipment manufacturer ICON Health & Fitness . If you jog two and a half hours per week, the electricity consumed by your treadmill could emit roughly 0.063 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year—about 1.3 percent of the annual emissions from the average car. A steeper incline can bring that number down, though. "Typically, when the incline is higher than 15 percent, the treadmill uses the same amount of power as an elliptical or bike since your body is doing more of the work," Law says. You'll also reduce the impact on your joints and strengthen your glutes, says Kurt Broadhag, a gym design consultant and trainer.

Turn Off the Tube
A TV on a cardio machine uses about 40 to 50 watts of power, while a playlist on your phone will pump you up for far less, Law says. Plus, when you position your head to see the TV screen, you may throw off your alignment, potentially increasing your injury risk, says Pamela Geisel, an exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

Pick Up the Weights
Unlike slogging away on the treadmill, doing resistance workouts requires zero electricity and may offer mind-body benefits: Not only do they help build metabolism-boosting muscle mass, but a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that strength training leads to a longer-lasting drop in blood pressure than aerobic exercise. And one Cornell University study showed that it improved body image in women over 40, too.

Skip the Fountain
Or at least don't sip straight from it; some of the water will go right down the drain, Broadhag says. Bring a reusable bottle to the gym instead, and you'll save precious H2O, avoid tossing disposable cups in the trash, and ensure you stay hydrated while you sweat.


Next Story