7 Easy Ways to Go Green with Your Fitness Routine

By Lauren Bedosky |

Small actions can create big change—especially when it comes to the environment. Here’s how to make your routine more eco-friendly.

eco-friendly fitness

Sustainability is no longer a trend or buzzword. In fact, a whopping 73 percent of consumers are open to changing their habits to reduce their impact on the environment, according to a 2018 Nielsen report.

If you’re among the majority of Americans looking for ways to be kinder to the environment, start by tweaking your health and fitness routine.

Green Idea #1: Exercise Outdoors

One of the simplest ways to make your workouts eco-friendly is to head outside. Take advantage of the natural spaces your community has to offer and walk, jog, hike, kayak, or practice yoga or tai chi. If you can exercise without driving to your workout spot, even better.

If you live in a pedestrian- and bike-friendly area, try walking or biking to the store to get exercise while running your errands. “My dad, who’s 64, runs most of his weekly errands by bike to reduce his carbon footprint at the same time he gets cardio exercise,” says Anna Jefferson, a yoga instructor in Carrboro, North Carolina.

While exercising outside, protect your skin with sunscreen in plastic-free packaging. Jefferson likes this All Good mineral sunscreen that comes in a recyclable metal tin and this Butterbean sunscreen sport stick that’s available in a compostable tube.

Green Idea #2: Bring Your Own Towel

Many gyms and yoga studios offer free towels for mopping up sweat, but washing all those towels every day uses up a lot of water and energy, especially in larger clubs.

“I worked in a club that had their own gigantic laundry room,” says Adam Boesel, a personal trainer and founder of the Green Microgym, an eco fitness club in Portland, Oregon. “A lot of our day was spent doing laundry.”

If you usually grab a towel at the gym, pool, or yoga studio, start packing your own. Even small changes like this can add up over time. “Bringing your own towel will reduce the impact the gym makes,” Boesel says.

Green Idea #3: Choose a Reusable Water Bottle

It’s smart to sip water while you exercise. Unfortunately, those convenient bottles of water available at gyms and fitness centers come at a cost. Roughly 32 percent of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging—like that used for plastic water bottles—made every year isn’t recycled, according to a World Economic Forum study. It’s left to flow into the oceans.

But switch to a reusable water bottle and you can save an average of 156 plastic bottles per year, according to the Earth Day Network.

“Invest in one you really like so you’ll use it,” Jefferson says. She recommends the Swig Savvy 25-ounce metal water bottle, but there are plenty of other reusable options available. Keep a spare bottle in your gym bag so you never need to buy water.

Green Idea #4: Buy Eco-Friendly Workout Clothes

Workout gear is often made of synthetic, or human-made, fibers like Lycra, spandex, and rayon. These materials may be great for wicking sweat during exercise, but they’re not eco-friendly.

“Exercise clothes have high synthetic fiber content that sheds off clothes in the wash as microplastics that pollute streams and the ocean,” Jefferson says.

The next time you’re in the market for new workout clothes, look for gear made of natural materials, like bamboo, and recycled materials. For example, 60 percent of the materials used by women’s athletic brand Athleta are made with sustainable fibers.

Another way to be kinder with your clothing choices is to visit your local secondhand shop to see what used athletic apparel you can find. Plus, the online consignment shop ThredUp has a large selection of activewear, and you can even set a filter for choices that are “new with tags.”

Green Idea #5: Get Rid of Old Gear Responsibly

Wearing a different clothing size these days or simply need to clear out some closet space? When it’s time to get rid of workout clothes, resist the urge to toss them in the trash. According to industry data, three in five garments we buy end up in a landfill or an incinerator within years.

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If the clothes are still in good condition, donate them or do a clothing swap with your SilverSneakers pals. Otherwise, search online for clothes recycling options in your area. Some cities offer recycling for clothes and shoes.

Green Idea #6: Shorten Your Post-Workout Shower

The average shower eats up roughly five gallons of water every minute, according to Boston University. Reduce waste by cutting just a couple of minutes—and 10 gallons of water—off your usual post-workout shower.

Save time by making sure you bring all your necessities into the shower. Use even less water by saving your daily shower for after your workout and turning off the water while you lather up.

Green Idea #7: Choose Eco-Friendly Fitness Equipment

In the market for a new treadmill or indoor bike? Look into sustainable, recycled, or refurbished equipment options. Your local equipment shop should be able to help you find green models that suit your needs.

Or take advantage of fitness tools you might already own. For example, grab a sturdy chair for these chair exercises for older adults. You can also use a chair for support in many SilverSneakers LIVE classes.

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