Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Sep 08

Human Powered Workout Gym Concept

Posted in Energy Inventions | Human Power | Transportation

Workout Gym When we look closely at human history we can easily conclude that locomotion is one of the most primordial needs. But our current lifestyle does not allow us with much of the movements. We need to move more often. But it is also true that we live in fitness conscious times. Going to a gymnasium and working out has become a health statement. But till now many of us have not delved deep into what happens in a gymnasium and how can we utilize events happening in gym for better purposes. If we look carefully every member of a gym in a particular time slot is performing some controlled and repetitive motion be it lifting weight or running on a treadmill or doing crunches. What can we do with all these motions?


Architect Mitchell Joachim, along with Douglas Joachim, a personal trainer, envisioned an idea that might redefine the perception of a gymnasium. When people exercise all the energy created by motion is wasted and it disappears into nothingness. If we can channelize all this kinetic energy into something meaningful we can have a floating River Gym, a kind of soft floating micro-island. It will utilize all the energy made by gym goers and convert it into usable electric energy stored in on-board batteries. This ground-breaking gym will not only endow us with a stimulating view to look upon, but will also provide increased transportation as well as a unique way to purify water while working out.

“Our concept encapsulates a new typology for the contemporary urban gym. It is intended to challenge our innate proprioceptive and multi-planer locomotive abilities while synchronously altering the surroundings. The River Gym will fulfill one of the major contemporary fitness goals of ‘functional training’,” Mitchell and Douglas Joachim elaborate.

When you go to a regular gym all you can enjoy is the sweaty images of you and fellow gym goers or a TV set or some music tracks going in loops. But here in River Gym you can observe the waves playing on the sea bed or some sea creatures taking into account what is happening in the river capsule. Why you have to subject yourself to same good old TV or music? While exercising, you can volunteer to transport some passengers to their destination too. That will combine exercising with some altruism.

This River Gym will offer all the facility a usual gym offers such as lockers, a reception desk and health food kiosks. All this would be housed in multiple points at the edges of each river body. Mitchell and Douglas put forth their views, “By continuing to provide vital health amenities, the River Gym can leave the realm of the glass box and become a useful multi-planar kinetic space.”

It is stated that they are dealing with concepts to harvest wasted human energy but utilizing a knee brace that captures energy from walking and uses it to produce electricity, or a system capable of channeling kinetic energy into electric power is awesome. These necessary devices are being developed by the Idaho based company Motion 2 Energy.

  • Corey Cooper

    This is a great thought. Never really looked at it that way. At this moment, the only way I see the energy being burned, given off, and being utilized in some way, is if an individual actually put on some sort of suit that harvests the energy given off. For example, if 30 people are in an experimental gym and run the treadmill or lift weights for an hour, they all would wear this energy harvesting suit. For the treadmill, I guess the more they move, the more energy they will provide. Almost like a mouse running on a wheel.

    Or instead of water or wind pulling a turbine, why not have each machine connected to the turbine in some way and each and every person in the gym will contribute to running it like a generator. Guess you could possibly hire or donate to individuals who come in and faithfully work out based on their performance. In that case, you may as well hook up a set of machines, find out which one gives off the most constant energy when operating and put them all over the gym. If a treadmill is the best equipment for the job, the fill the gym with treadmills alone, and let the energy flow! This in my opinion would not only encourage people to work out, but it could possibly provide income for a few more American citizens. Would love to continue to brainstorm on random topics as this, so don’t hesitate to inform me if I can be at anymore assistance. Have a couple of gyms like this in a city and im sure it will help lower all of the other alternative energy percentages in some way. Hope this sparks a huge idea. If so, please don’t forget about me. lol 🙂 Have a blessed day!

  • Corey Cooper

    Didn’t see the other paragraphs before I first posted. If anyone starts a gym like that, or attempts to start one. I would like to be one of the first to know. I would really like to be apart of that experiment. Not merely because I am a health head and like working out, but because I have a huge interest in alternative energy and I am currently a college student who is interning at a nuclear plant who would once again love to be apart of a team who’s mission is to find a more efficient and healthier way to produce energy. Thanks once again 😉

  • Mark Jones

    This sounds great until you apply a little scientific rigor and a only a fleeting knowledge of thermodynamics. A world class endurance athlete – we’re talking Lance Armstrong class athlete – is good for about 300 watts. Most of us are lucky to generate 100 watts. In other words, at maximum effort, we’d be lucky to keep our computers on. Lights and TVs in the gym? Not a chance.

    Our homes average about 1000 W over a 24 hour day, consuming about 9000 kW-hr/yr. The bad news is that we aren’t at home very much. Commercial buildings consume well more. The average energy consumption in the US is almost 100,000 kW-hr per individual or about 10 kW on a continuous basis. The 100 W produced at the gym is perilously close to insignificant.

    Want to save the environment? Skip the gimmicky gym and use human power to get you to and from work or school. At least while walking/running/biking your personal energy balance will be favorable.

  • Keith

    Mark Jones is SPOT ON. People dream up all kinds of out-of-the-box stuff, and it’s cool and entertaining to read about. But there is little practical applicability in the here and now. I played around with electric bikes and am a biker myself so I know how much energy a human can generate, and it ain’t much compared to what the house needs, let alone a single car driving to work. We have an epidemic of obesity and total lack of fitness in the USA, and there is an ever growing problem with CO2 emissions and fossil fuel use and dependence. Solve 2 birds with one stone and ride bikes to work. The only problem here is (from lots of personal experience) the USA seriously lacks the infrastructure to encourage people to bike to work. This country is very biker hostile. I get nearly run off the road almost every time I bike. There aren’t enough shoulders and bike paths to use, and you can’t ride on side walks while commuting (long list of reasons why omitted). If the president wants a stimulus, and curb CO2 emissions, and lessen dependence of foreign oil, he needs to promote (human power and small motor) commuter paths all across the country.

  • slaps

    Incorrect. A typical college athlete can easily generate 1300 watts. a horsepower, 740 watts, is the power a horse generates while walking. An athlete working hard can nearly double that for an extended period.

  • Tharindu Magedara

    I think this is great as an idea, as a concept, but i have to question “would it not be inconvenient for the users if his or her gym has just flown away when they need it?”

  • Keith

    I strongly disagree with slaps. Where do you get this data? please quote sources. I have an electric bike and I can see the wattage realtime on the meter when I am going 30 miles an hour pulling over a kilowatt. No way the average person could sustain that. Even an athlete would be “pushing” it. It may be possible for a highly trained athlete to top out at a kilowatt for a burst, but no way sustained. I am no slouch, biking often, but there is no way I can sustain what my electric motor can do running off the lithium batteries drawing a kilowatt.

  • Mark Jones

    For the health club application, I believe the salient numbers are average output over a reasonable workout, not peak measures. This prompted my comparison with endurance athletes. Lance Armstrong rather than Tiger Woods. Check out Lance Armstrong’s War – a book that details his physiology for his average and peak performance.

    Also Prarie, Y.T.; Duarte, C.M.; “Direct and indirect metabolic CO2 release by humanity”, Biogeosciences Discussions, November 2006, pages 1781-1789 is useful. It discusses average energy use.

    Lastly and more recently, from the August 10, 2009 Wall Street Journal. Cycling’s One-in-a-Million Story: Overworked Wall Streeter Buys a Bike to Stay Fit, Discovers an Elite Talent, By REED ALBERGOTTI also quotes the average wattage numbers.

    All place the values in the 300 W for elite, 100 for the rest of us.

    As an aside, the golf swing is likely 2-3 kW, but only for fractions of a second (Sports Engineering (2002) 5, 23-32). I haven’t the foggiest notion about how much energy is expended in the swearing and hunting for the ball after the shot.

  • slaps

    Keith, while you say you strongly disagree with me, your data seems to support my comments. Mark Jones is a clown, claiming 100 watts is the maximum a person can deliver. That is, in fact, the amount of energy a person uses when reading. Why he thinks that is the upper limit is beyond me. As you have found, an amateur athlete can put out over a kilowatt. There is some question as to how long this can be sustained, which would depend on the person involved.

  • Amy

    Hi all,

    It seems to me that the relevant issue is not to argue over whether or not this is practical now, but to encourage the creation of the technology that will make it practical soon. Many technological advances seemed completely bizarre and unlikely to be of much use at first. Conservation, alternative transportation, drastic lifestyle changes — yes, of course. AND technological brain-power, well-designed and applied. It’s not an either-or.

    If human-powered energy is too puny (and the jury is out on that) — can we run it through some sort of energy amplification device?

    In my informal research on this topic, I have the impression that many smart minds are working on this — not _if_ it can work, but how.

  • Sai Tulluri

    Personally, I think this is a great idea, and I cannot agree with Amy more. Its great that we have are having discussion about the practical applications of these so called “Puny” sources of energy. I am no scientist, but I believe that these small sources of energy will eventually contribute to the solution for creating an energy efficient society.

    For example, in the energy harvesting gym mentioned in the above article, if each user were to generate enough energy to offset the energy they utilize in the gym during the course of their workout-then it will go a long way in reducing carbon foot print of each one of us. This could be as easy as the elliptical machine that you workout on, harvests energy and powers the dials on the machine or the TV that’s mounted on it.

    If the bike you ride to work can charge your cell phone, Ipod or laptop then that’s the energy you will be saving. Multiply this by all the people who ride to work or school.

    Essentially, you can have everyday applications, where possible, to harvest and power themselves by using human kinetic energy.But,this technology should be applied smartly- It does not mean you build a washing machine where you sit and crank to wash your clothes.

    The greatest challenge is to build technology that can effectively harvest and utilize the human kinetic energy. This would also require the political will from the Governments/Companies across the world to invest money/resources into bright minds to build these technologies.

  • Corey Ellis

    Yoooo This looks a great idea and it looks really modern… Go for it !

  • Justin Gellman

    Regardless of how much energy is actually produced, harnessing that energy is still better than letting it go to waste. Think about all the people in all the gyms nationwide, or better yet, the world. Instead of losing all that mechanical energy, why not make it useful? Perhaps the floating gym isn’t the best method, but the ideas behind it are the important part.

    On a side note, I do agree with Mark Jones. Ride a bike to work, there’s no reason I should see a Ford Excursion sitting in rush hour traffic with one person in it… inexcusable.

  • dorth

    Yeah, this is an idea that has been floating around (no pun intended) in my head for a while now. I like the concept of a gym powered by human energy. but the floating gym? what’s the point? why not just combine the energy harvested from the members and combine that with other forms of alternative energy-wind, solar– to create a gym that is self-sustaining and STAYS in one place? Unfortunately, i don’t have the educational background to make something like that work… but will be watching carefully to see if someone else does.

  • Mark Jones

    I certainly take offense to the characterization “clown”. It would sting more if delivered by someone with knowledge of the topic at hand. I have provided references already, but will add additional ones that speak directly to the matter of a workout. It seems that human powered generators are a hobby for some. These efforts provide insights into what the average person could reasonably expect to generate during a workout if connected to a generator. Mother Earth News did a nice piece (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Renewable-Energy/2008-10-01/Pedal-Powered-Generators.aspx) indicating that the 100 watts I suggested was reasonable for an individual doing a sustained workout is correct. Similarly, one of the best sites for information on building your own generator (http://www.los-gatos.ca.us/davidbu/pedgen.html) also substantiates the 100-200 watts I suggested. It does a great job of debunking the “energy amplifier” arguments in the discussions on gearing. Conservation of energy isn’t just a suggestion, it is a law. Lastly, McCullagh’s 1977 work Pedal Power: In work, leisure, and transportation quotes “75 watts of power is possible to be generated by an average rider at road speed in a one hour time frame”. I believe that these should put this argument to rest. Health clubs powering the world can’t happen. It may make you feel a bit better, but it likely won’t tip your personal energy balance significantly. Biking instead of pushing around a ton of steel does make a difference in your personal energy balance.

  • martin

    This article is very interesting and very informative, a lot of people including myself can learn from this site, great work! Hi five for you!

  • Vance Rossberg

    This could be used in many ways. Think of the possibilities. Horse power? Could we use this energy in football games, horse races, baseball games, etc…?

  • JB

    How much will this cost to create? Gotta be a fortune.

  • wolstede

    The argument on the numbers is because Mark Jones and slaps are talking about two different things.

    When I spend an hour working hard in the gym, the machines (bikes, cross-trainers) show I’ve used up about 750 Calories (kcal), which is 3140 kJ. Since there are 3600 seconds in an hour, this means I’m using up energy at a rate of 0.87kJ/sec, or 870W (in line with the figures slaps gives)

    However, most of the that energy is going into moving my legs and arms round, and my body up and down, producing heat in my body, etc. If I were able to measure the useful power I was producing by turning the exercise bike’s pedals, that would be more like the 75-100W that Mark Jones refers to.

    Overall, we’re just inefficient power generators.

  • Rob Lip

    Wolstede has found the cause of argument between the two.

    i would like to add that I am currently working on developing stationary bikes and elliptical trainers that instead of using energy to create resistance the turbine will be the resistance and the product will power batteries.

    i will call the gym “THE MATRIX” and the gola will be to avoid hooking into any power.

  • Thom Hill

    The best application of exer-energy is recharging small electronic devices like cell phones, MP3 players, computers, etc.

    As Ben Franklin said: a microwatt saved is a microwatt earned. This is a form of energy conservation or more aptly substitution: substituting wasted kinetic energy for costly electrical energy. Congress needs to pass tax incentives that allow entrepreneurs to capture these type ideas and turn them into financial and eco-capital.

  • Mike Maybury

    A Slightly different idea based on the above idea.What about public transport, buses or trains where some passengers could ‘pay their way by contributing energy? Athletic people could travel in more comfortable surroundings, and safer, than cycling. A variety of exercise machines, which could generate electricity or mechanical power, putting energy into a flywheel for example.

    Over time less energetic passengers might be encouraged to contribute a little energy, in return for a reduction in their fare. PV panels on the roof of transport might contribute some extra energy, and electronic braking could recycle some energy.

    All together the benefits would be
    1. extra exercise for all
    2. reduced fares
    3. less fuel
    4. In cold weather, and exerciser would need less heated transport, too!

    Could capital costs be covered.

  • Antonia

    wow! I wanted to do exactly the same thing for a project, and I thought that maybe it already existed so I looked up for this and here it is 🙂

  • James

    I just got off work where I spend most the night pondering on ideas and things that could be created. This Gym concept is what I was thinking about due to all the “Green” technologies being finally harvested. Now I believe that if we have the technology to make a plane look like a bird in the air, we could easily create elliptical and stationary bikes that would be all hooked up to the grid. It won’t be a huge reduction on current electricity cost but I believe that it would be enough to keep a gym open with free membership. So more people could afford to go to a gym and we can start cutting into that American fat. There is a lot of energy that we produce on our own. Why not harness this energy? I’ve been to gyms where there are 100 people working their tails off. You may not notice one’s persons output but combined, it would make a difference. So let’s do it already…

  • Deleone

    Is there anyone who REALLY enjoys going to the public gyms to exercise? Why don’t you create your own home gym that suits the requirements you want to target? Furthermore, you save the money on membership fees, and you won’t have to be concerned the way look in working out suit!


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