Running round and round the local park can seem like a monotonous way to stay fit, especially if you don’t actually like running. But what if there was a point to exercise, aside from the distant possibility of losing weight? Like generating electricity, for instance.
An outdoor gym in the northeast of England is allowing all-comers to spin hand bikes, recumbent bikes, and fitness bikes, to generate enough power to light the installation at night. And, in time the hope is that the gym will also recharge people’s phones and music players, and even send some power back to the grid.
"It gives people another reason to come and exercise," says Georgie Delaney, creative director of the Great Outdoor Gym Company, which has installed the gym in a park in Hull. "A lot of people find exercise a waste of time, but when you’ve got something tangible you can take away, you feel like you’re contributing."
If it generates power in sufficient quantities, the gym could offset some of its upfront and running costs, though the amounts involved may not be huge. IEEE Spectrum estimated last year that an indoor spinning machine running five hours a day, for 365 days a year, would generate only $18 worth of power, at today’s prices.
Still, the benefits may go beyond cost. Delaney says the incentive of being able to charge a phone, and compete with friends over who can deliver the most energy, could entice people to use the machine. And the installation also helps educate folks about renewable energy in a practical, hands-on way.
Though there are plenty of indoor gyms generating electricity, Hull’s experiment is a first for the outdoors, according to Delaney. The company plans more pilots in the coming months, and wants to develop new uses for the power generated (suggestions are welcome).
Certainly, Delaney is excited about the possibilities. "It gives another spin to exercise," she says.