Exercising outdoors

Last updated Wednesday 2 July 2008

Energy saving for the energetic

Personal fitness and wellbeing are to be applauded. But could training in the fresh air help the climate stay healthy too?

Heating, commuting and food emissions have a new rival - research suggests we Brits clock up the bulk of our greenhouse gas emissions in our leisure time. And gyms, crammed with high-wattage treadmills, bright lights and air conditioning, are one of the offenders. A single treadmill, used for half an hour five times a week, will emit about 100kg of CO2 a year.

So, if you're into running, could it be time to brave the great outdoors?

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Photo: Exercising outdoors

Saves up to 110 kg of CO2 a year

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How will it make a difference?

Pub Fact

  • A treadmill uses as much power as a kettle
  • Only 30% of men and 20% of women are as fit as they should be for their age according to the British Medical Association
  • In a year, you will emit almost 300kg of CO2 to the atmosphere just through exhaling
  • The Naked Scientist calculates that Brits exercising in gyms generate 6 gW of energy - enough to power a large coal-powered station
  • During a 30-minute bout of exercise, you could be expelling an extra 8g of CO2

Running outdoors instead of on a treadmill can save as much CO2 as using real nappies instead of disposables.

Exercising outside - or joining a 'green gym' - cuts carbon and calories. Oxford Brookes University estimates that chopping down trees is as calorie-intensive as doing step aerobics.

Gyms of the future - and a handful that already exist - could actually be extremely climate-friendly. These gyms could 'scavenge your energy' - allowing your movements to power your treadmill's display, and more - if you have the energy. According to the whacky boffins over at the Naked Scientist, a single Brit exercising hard on a gym bike can generate about 280 Watts, or enough to run two computers and their monitors.

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How do I do it?

If you crave the company or camaraderie of your local gym, there are running clubs out there and other runners looking for people to train with:

And if running isn't your thing, you could burn calories while exercising your conservation skills planting trees, clearing paths or coppicing - all for free. Read more about 'green gyms' in the Guardian:

You could also consider cycling or walking instead of commuting by car.

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Comments

Hermione, London 2009-06-26

I just love excercising outside. Running on a treadmill is just so boring, and bad for your knees. If you're lucky enough to live close to some woodland or fields, it totally revolutionises the sport, adding a little adventure into a pretty mundane sport.

But why should outdoor sport be limited to running? Al fresco gym classes, that's a thought...! And wild swimming. I just went for a swim in the Serpentine, in Londons' Hyde Park. So much more fun than bleaching yourself in chlorine whilst swimming back and forth in an excessively heated indoor pool. Try it!

Louise, London 2009-03-06

Myself and my colleagues have started a running club at work. Every week we do a 4 mile circuit around Wormwood scrubs and Regents canal. It's a great way of keeping fit and keeping motivated in the afternoons at work.

Yuu no huu it is, Brumtown 2008-10-29

This is brilliant, excersizing more. It keeps you fit and things like that, it helps you with your health too.

I've started karate and it's brilliant!

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Glossary terms used on this page
CO2
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is made up of the elements carbon and oxygen. It exists quite naturally in our atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. Everyday processes in the plant and animal world both add CO2 to the atmosphere and take it out. However, because it is a greenhouse gas - meaning it affects the temperature of the earth - the exact level of CO2 is important. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere, hence the anxiety that extensive use of these fuels is causing climate change.
Greenhouse gases
Greenhouse gases raise the earth's temperature through the greenhouse effect. There are six main examples. As well as carbon dioxide, they include: water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and CFCs (which include sulphur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs). Of these, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs are controlled under the Kyoto Protocol to limit their concentration in the atmosphere. The heat warming capacity of each gas is measured by its 'global warming potential': how much heat it traps depends on its chemical make-up and how long it stays in the atmosphere.
Watt
A watt is a unit of power. Power is the rate at which energy is used, and a watt is equal to a rate of one joule of energy per second. Watts are commonly used when referring to the energy consumption of relatively small things like lightbulbs, while kilowatts (a thousand watts) are used for larger machines. Megawatts (a million watts) are used to measure the electricity generation of power stations. See also kilowatt-hours.

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