How environmentally friendly is a gym membership?

21 Apr 2023
4 min read
Woman training in the park

There are predictable times where gym membership increases, one of those is at the start of the year and one of those is around Easter when we all start thinking of booking summer holidays.

How can I work out and help the environment at the same time? The answer is often right outside your front door.

Known in the industry as the ‘January Gym Rush’, the bump at the start of the year accounts for around twelve percent of all gym sign ups annually with loads more joins happening as the summer starts approaching and people think about going on holiday or sitting on the beach.

But while getting fit and being accountable for your own health can only ever be a good thing, have you ever thought about the energy implications and green credentials of gym membership? Just how good for the environment are gyms? And is there a greener way to work out than buying membership to a gym?

Machines use energy

Gyms use staggering amounts of energy. Machinery is always on, more often than not there are steam rooms saunas and hot tubs that use huge amounts of heat and air conditioning is set to chill as we run along the treadmill. which isn’t exactly eco-friendly when it comes to energy use. Many clubs still use bottled water coolers that often use single use plastic cups.

What to do?

So what are the solutions if you want to reduce your carbon footprint but increase your step count every day?

Firstly, get outside, the natural environment has so many physical and mental health benefits so rather than fork out for a gym membership try exercising outside in nature. Cardio can be done al fresco but so can strength and weight training by using your own body weight in push ups, planks, burpees, and squats, so whether it’s your back garden or the local park, find a green space you can work out in and soak up the sounds of nature while you work up a sweat.

Park runs happen across the country every Saturday morning and hundreds of thousands of people walk and run the 5km course. They’re staffed entirely by volunteers too. Go to to find your nearest.

Arrange to go with a friend to ensure the weather doesn’t dampen your spirits too. Many areas are organising group walks or runs after work so people feel safe despite the dark evenings and have fun together.

Think about returning to a sport you loved too; yes, team sports like netball might be played indoors but large sports halls use much less energy than gyms. Team sports have proven mental health benefits too and if you don’t think you’re fit enough, lots of towns and cities have walking football, netball, and rugby clubs while you work on getting your fitness back.

Why not double up the good you’re doing and volunteer to walk the dogs from your local dogs home or use an app like borrow my doggy to find a neighbour in need of help? They’re often desperate for volunteer dog walkers so you’ll be Ig fit and doing a good deed at the same time.

Get your plog on too – yes you read that right. Plogging started in Sweden in 2016 and is a combination or jogging and litter picking. There are plogging accounts on social media to help you find a group near you.

Rope in the kids. Family bike rides are a great way to get fit and spend time together and if you’re feeling brave or fit, you can jog beside them while they cycle.

Turn to social media, either post on your own local groups or search for groups who might already be meeting up casually to exercise together. There are lots of boot camp type classes in parks all over the country.

Think of your wallet

The money you’ll save not joining a gym can either go back into your wallet or you can put it aside each month and spend it on yourself at the end of the Year.

There are millions of people across the UK who join gyms to get fit but before you sign up to a monthly outgoing, ask yourself ‘how can I work out and help the environment at the same time?’ The answer is often right outside your front door.


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