A study by the University of San Diego and CB Richard Ellis found that working in a “green” environment can bolster workplace health and productivity. So, could working out in a green environment boost our health and productivity, as well?
First, let’s take a closer look at these “green” workplaces. What could cause the workers in the study, who traded their old office digs for greener buildings, log fewer sick days and increased productivity? Presumably, these green buildings are energy- and water-efficient, which would ultimately cut costs and minimize the building’s minimizes negative impact on the environment.
Energy efficiency and extra cash in the bank are nice — for the employer — but they can’t possibly be what is fortifying employee health and increasing their motivation or aptitude.
Here’s where I think another aspect of green buildings comes in. According to the EPA, a secondary goal of creating green spaces is to protect occupant health and productivity. Many green buildings are designed to reduce the negative impact a building has on its occupants by curbing pollutants and improving air quality and ventilation. Many also have friendlier lighting conditions and better ergonomics.
Put all those green features in our gyms, and you could certainly start seeing springier laps on the treadmill. Why? Because we’re more sensitive to our environment than we realize. In fact, we can probably place the blame for America’s gymphobia squarely on cluttered, noisy, stuffy B.O. chambers. Why would anyone suffer through more than 15 minutes on the elliptical here?
Our exercise environment should motivate, inspire or calm us. We should want to spend enough time there to get our “head in the game,” to enjoy or at least be present for our workouts. How about rooms with breezy ventilation and large windows that let in natural light? Light, by the way, tells the brain to wake up, and sunlight would certainly do a better job of counteracting the drone of the treadmills than dingy fluorescents.
And how about a gym that is designed to reduce product emissions and help us breathe better? Aahhh… As an asthmatic, I can easily see how minimizing pollutants in the gym’s air would shore up my athletic performance.
Improve the conditions at the gym (or your home gym), and it could change your mood and physical stamina, as well as make you want to go more often and stay longer. A healthy gym relationship, more than a smart workout, could be the secret to lasting fitness.
Of course, when I push a greener gym, I’m not talking about what San Diegans are talking about: an off-the-grid green gym where exercisers on the stationary machines generate power to cover their music and lights. (To that, I say — are they getting a discount on their memberships?). I’m not talking about the “noble” absence of air conditioning, either, and if they’ve started making 50%-recycled-material yoga mats, I don’t want one. (Surely one lifetime of public sweat and germs is enough.)
I’m suggesting that we seek out gyms that are built “green” with some of the environmental advantages above, and try them out. Or, implement some of these elements — better lighting or ventilation, perhaps — in your workout space at home. See if it boosts your attitude toward exercising, or even hikes your readouts.
What’s your most productive workout environment?
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