Keeping yourself in good physical shape is a key part of a sustainable lifestyle, but not all workout routines are inherently eco-friendly. For example, driving to the gym and using electronic equipment every day isn’t ideal because it increases your daily emissions and energy consumption.
Use these seven actionable tips to keep your workout routine eco-friendly without interfering with your fitness goals. You’ll be doing your part to improve your health and that of the planet.
1. Take your routine outdoors
Exercising outdoors is the simplest and most effective way to make your routine more eco-friendly. Although a growing number of gyms are adopting green practices, the natural world will always be the best place to work out. Tons of challenging activities cause little to no emissions:
- Walking/running: Walking or running outside is more effective than on a cardio machine. The changing terrain and natural elements help you burn more calories and stimulate more muscle fibers in your lower body.
- Cycling: Cycling is an excellent outdoor workout and a sustainable means of transportation. Easy to moderate cycling burns about 300 calories per hour for the average person.
- Hiking: Hiking is the perfect activity for people to reach their fitness goals and gain a new appreciation for the environment. Check out your area’s hiking trails and see if you’re up to the challenge.
- Swimming: Swimming is a great substitute for other workouts if you want something less strenuous. It’s challenging but puts less pressure on your bones and joints than weight training.
- Group classes: Many group exercise classes take place outdoors because of the wide open spaces and motivating scenery. Who needs a fitness studio when you can work out on a lawn of fresh grass?
- Recreational sports: Every city has recreational sports leagues for people of all ages. These groups are a great way to expand your social circle while working toward your fitness goals.
Additionally, your daily commute can become a big part of your exercise routine. Cities across the United States have invested in new walking and cycling routes to help commuters and pedestrians. If you live in one of these cities, consider walking or riding your bike to work instead of driving. The car-free lifestyle has never been more accessible in urban areas.
2. Invest in eco-friendly equipment
Electronic workout equipment might be convenient, but it’s not great for the environment. The average treadmill draws 15 to 20 amps of electricity every hour at moderate speeds, which is more than most home appliances. A mechanical treadmill is a much better choice if you prefer exercising in your own home.
Here are other types of workout equipment with a minimal environmental impact:
- Free weights
- Resistance bands
- Yoga mat
- Pullup bar
- Stationary bike
These items are even more eco-friendly if you buy them secondhand or shop from manufacturers that use recycled materials. Check out the product descriptions to confirm these details before making your purchase. You should also visit online marketplaces on social media to find older workout equipment that meets your needs.
3. Incorporate household items
You can also get creative and use household items as workout equipment. This way, you’re not contributing to emissions from manufacturing, packaging and shipping store-bought items. The workouts might not feel the same, but they can be just as effective. Here are some common examples:
- Use a chair or couch to perform elevated pushups or triceps exercises.
- Fill plastic milk jugs or water bottles with sand to create homemade free weights.
- Use towels as sliders on hardwood or tile floors to train your core and lower body.
- Put a broomstick between two chairs to perform pulling exercises.
- Do cardio workouts on the stairs instead of a treadmill or elliptical machine.
Of course, some exercises, like pushups and situps, don’t require any equipment at all. As long as you have a flat and stable surface, you can always complete a challenging workout in your home. Every routine should include bodyweight training because it improves your functional strength and supports good joint health.
4. Keep your environment clean
If you do go to a gym, pay attention to the locations you frequent. More gyms are adopting greener practices such as renewable energy, mechanical cardio equipment and low-energy light fixtures. When possible, prioritize low-impact environments like open-air courts with publicly available exercise equipment.
Patrons like yourself play an important role in keeping these locales sustainable. Most public facilities have suggested etiquette practices as leaving behind supplies is not only bad for the environment but likely to cause injuries to others using the facilities after you. You have a responsibility to clean up after yourself after training in public areas. Wipe off equipment with disinfectant and put everything back in its proper place. A clean space is often an eco-friendly space.
5. Get new workout clothes
Athletic clothing usually consists of synthetic materials such as nylon and spandex. They might be great at absorbing sweat and keeping you comfortable, but they’re not good for the environment. These clothes release 9 million microfibers of plastic into local waterways every time you do laundry.
Next time you buy new workout clothes, ensure they’re made of sustainable materials like cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo and recycled polyester. Many sustainable athleticwear brands offer great clothing selections and have well-documented environmental policies. You can simultaneously support these projects and make your workout routine more eco-friendly.
6. Use a sustainable water bottle
Shopping behaviors significantly contribute to climate change. To make a more positive impact, you must buy fewer single-use products, starting with plastic water bottles. Switch to a nonplastic reusable version during your workouts. Your plastic waste and water usage will significantly decrease.
Sustainability is one of the driving forces behind the Hydro Flask craze sweeping the nation. In addition to producing no plastic waste, these stainless steel bottles provide pinpoint temperature control and are completely leakproof.
7. Take a quicker post-workout shower
The average shower in the U.S. lasts about eight minutes and uses more than 16 gallons of water. Americans go through more than 1 trillion gallons of water just from showering and bathing. With these numbers in mind, you should start taking quicker showers after your workouts. Cutting the time in half will lead to significant water savings in the long run. You can buy yourself a timer to ensure you finish quickly.
Train for yourself and the environment
Implementing these tips into your daily workout routine means you’re no longer just training for yourself but also for the environment. Spending more time outdoors, adjusting your buying habits, and getting creative with at-home workouts will help you reduce your waste and emissions. You don’t even need to change your fitness goals to put these tips into action and make the world a better place.
About the author
Jack Shaw is the senior writer for Modded, a men’s lifestyle publication. An avid outdoorsman and lover of nature, he’ll often find himself taking retreats out to explore his environment and encourages others to do the same. His writings have been featured on sites such as Duluth Pack, Environment Go!, Tiny Buddha and more.