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Human-Powered Gyms: For a Healthier You—and a Healthier Earth
Friday, 17 February 2012 00:00  |  Written by Victoria Cho | Article

Gym Interior photo by Abdullah AL-NaserAs we desperately search for alternative energy resources, one market has managed to capitalize on perhaps the most available and efficient source of energy around—humans.

Sustainable gyms have already appeared in Hong Kong, Australia and Oregon—and are spreading to Europe and other parts of the world. Using generators connected to exercise bikes and treadmills, the gyms are able to power themselves by harnessing energy from their members’ workouts.

The First Sustainable Gym
The idea for sustainable gyms was conceived by Italian inventor Lucien Gambarota. He partnered with entrepreneur Doug Woodring and Hong Kong-based company California Fitness (now known as the Motorwave Group) to open the world’s first such gym in 2008. California Fitness's president at the time, Steve Clinefelter, explained the concept’s advantages by giving the example of a treadmill modified to generate electricity:

“One person has the ability of producing 50 watts of electricity per hour when exercising at a moderate pace, which means that to prevent 12 liters of CO2 from being released into the air, a person needs to produce the same amount of electricity by exercising on the specially setup machine for one hour. If a person spends one hour per day running on the machine, he/she could generate 18.2 kilowatts of electricity and prevent 4,380 liters of CO2 released per year. So exercise can improve not only your health but contributes to a greener environment.”

The company initially set up 13 machines in its main club with plans to expand into other Hong Kong locations before going international.

Other Sustainable Gyms
Also opening in 2008 was fitness instructor Adam Boesel’s The Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon. Boesel’s goal is complete sustainability, but in the meantime, his gym has been able to reduce its carbon emissions by 60%.

In Australia, retired professional boxer Danny Moran introduced the generator-connected cycling machines at Surry Hills Boxing Gym. He encourages membership by reminding locals of Australia’s status as the second-fattest nation in the world and as the biggest carbon emitter per capita. By joining his gym, people combat obesity and block carbon emissions. How’s that for a great combination punch?

How It Works
The machines contain generators activated by the movement of the pedals or treadmill. The energy the generators create can be stored in batteries, which can be hooked up to converters to power various features of the gym. Human Dynamo, the company behind the machines at The Green Microgym, has also developed models that can be directly plugged into the grid. Thus, the gyms electric usage is reduced in proportion to how much activity there is on those machines. And in areas where utility companies buy back excess power, the gym can actually earn money back from the utility.

Buy (or Build) Your Own
If you hate the gym, but like the idea of energy-producing exercise machines, you might consider purchasing your own. Then again, you might decide to pass on this option when you see the machines’ off-putting price tags. Human Dynamo charges $1950 for each of its generator-connected bikes. Moreover, the package doesn’t include a 12-volt battery and 120-volt AC inverter necessary to modify the bike’s energy output to power small appliances around the home. A more economical option is to buy a pedal power bicycle generator dynamo kit. They are easy to put together and list for under $500.

If you prefer running over cycling, see Woodway’s energy-conserving treadmills. Their completely sustainable model, the EcoMill, contains a battery charged by the treadmill’s movement.

Other Uses of Human Power
While self-powered gyms are at an early stage of development and few currently exist, the invention of energy-generating machines powered by humans has enormous potential. There are, for instance, already sustainable dance clubs and pedal-bike contraptions that can blend you a drink or do your laundry.

Even if a sustainable gym or dance club doesn’t exist near you, and you aren’t yet ready to invest in a human-powered appliance, let these machines inspire you to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health in other ways. For instance, you can save the world’s energy by using your own—through biking or walking to work, and taking the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator. Your body and the Earth will thank you, and so will future generations.

Additional resources:
Pedal-Powered Appliances for Home, Business and Leisure
My Body Is a Self-Cleaning Organism: Natural Body-Cleansing Tips
Natural Home Hygiene: Cleaning Your House Without Harming the Earth
Greening Your Bathroom for Your Health and the Earth’s
Eco Laundry: Low-Energy and Natural Washing, Drying, Dry Cleaning and Moth-Prevention Tips
Natural Garden Pest Control
Build a Solar Food Dehydrator—Easy, Detailed Plans
Clearing the Air: Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality

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Comments (11)add
Written by DennisParker , May 07, 2014
After looking into a number of the articles on your website, I honestly like your way of blogging. I added it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future.
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Written by clara , April 16, 2013
rick shut up, they should be grazing on grass & flowers & herbs, without any biocides on them. they get all the exercise they need from being in their natural envionment
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Written by RKT , March 25, 2013
Hey rick, it would take more energy to raise and maintain the animals than your scheme would create--just growing and shipping their food alone would put you in an energy deficit. I prefer that we use less energy and generate what we do need from renewable sources (e.g., geothermal, wind, wave and solar).
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Written by rick , March 25, 2013

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Written by Tim , November 03, 2012
Actually, if you are a vegetarian (like I am), you exhale CO2, but the CO2 you exhale is net-zero carbon, because that carbon originally came out of the air to be stored in the food that you eat. This is different from fossil CO2 (such as coal, oil, natural gas emissions) because the carbon in fossil fuels did not come out of the air in a short time span. That carbon was taken out millions of years ago. The CO2 you exhale was taken out of the air up to a year ago. Still emitting CO2, but with much less impact. Human energy can be even cleaner than solar if you grow your own food and use a pedal generator for your energy needs. It's all about not using fossil fuels.
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Written by hiker , July 03, 2012
fun stuff..been building pedgens for years--i use a exersize bike..with a belt from the flywheel down to a treadmill motor or a ac coversion far i've hit up to 400 watts at 28 volts dc..
or a easy 110 v0lts ac..just powering a small tv and a vedio player--no batts or converter--straight ac from the gen..watched over a hour tape[vhs]
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Written by dweqe , May 15, 2012
This is the best post for anybody who wants to search out out about this topic. You realize a lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I truly would need…HaHa). You positively put a brand new spin on a topic that's been written about for years. Nice stuff, simply nice!
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Written by Ajay Chole , March 12, 2012
Absolutely fantastic and interesting way of power generation!!

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Written by Herman A Pope , December 31, 2011
When humans exercise, they produce CO2
You may save some burning of Coal, but you do not reduce CO2 by exercising.
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Written by Don Carpenter , October 12, 2011
Good article and a fascinating idea! I'm going to forward it to some entrepreneurial engineering friends of mine.
I must confess that when I saw the title I thought it was a review of bodyweight exercise programs like Charles Atlas or something.
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Written by kattothyrst , June 29, 2011
I find this a great idea, never really thought about the potential for a gym, for example to generate some of its own power requirements from the exercise routines of its members. It's one of those "nice" set ups where through our own activity (to improve or maintain our good shape) we can give something back to neutralise our impact. I wonder what you could power at home. Just find the best ellipitical for home use and find a handy electronics sngineer!
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