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Seven ways for you to make your workout more eco-friendly this summer

Getting a sweat on doesn't have to come at the expense of the planet. Liz Connor finds easy tips for making your fitness routine more sustainable

Eco fit: dump your plastic water bottle and wear sustainable clothing
Eco fit: dump your plastic water bottle and wear sustainable clothing

By Liz Connor

If you've already cut down on your meat consumption, carry a reusable coffee cup and always separate your recycling, then you might want to consider the impact your gym routine is having on the environment too.

As great as a sweaty workout can be on a personal level, there are plenty of elements to exercise that may not be all that sustainable - which most of us don't even realise.

Given that the Government has pledged to make the UK the first major economy to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, finding ways to reduce your individual carbon footprint has never been more pressing. And with the war on plastic raging on, many of us are thinking about how we can make our lifestyles more gentle on the planet.

That doesn't mean you have to give up your journey to sculpting a summer six-pack altogether, but a few simple swaps could help make your gym game a lot greener...

1. Choose sustainable workout gear

Popular performance fabrics like nylon and polyester might look great in the weights room, but they require a lot of energy to create and aren't biodegradable. Thanks to celebs like Emma Watson and Rooney Mara though, the sustainable fashion market is growing - and the same goes for gym gear.

Peak + Flow (peakandflow.com) are a running brand that create all the essentials (tanks, sports bras, leggings) from recycled materials like ocean plastic and eucalyptus pulp. After two years of use, you can send your worn-out kit back and they'll recycle it for you, while gifting you a shop discount in return.

BAM (bambooclothing.co.uk), meanwhile, create super comfy yoga gear that's made from biodegradable bamboo cotton, which is naturally moisture-wicking, breathable and antibacterial too.

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When it comes to running shoes, it can be hard to know how sustainable your kicks are, but Vivobarefoot are totally transparent about the process. Their ultra-thin Primus Lite II Bio Shoes (£120, vivobarefoot.com) are made with over 30% natural plant-based materials (like corn and algae foam) for minimal impact on the planet.

2. Go 'plogging'

In January, ClassPass predicted treadmill-based workout classes will become the fastest-growing fitness trend of the year, using its own data as evidence. Instead of using a tonne of electricity to power a treadmill though, why not enjoy the same benefits outside instead? You could even combine an outdoor run with a spot of 'plogging'. This Swedish exercise concept basically involves picking up litter as you jog through the streets or local park.

3. Get a reusable water bottle and kit bag

Ever since David Attenborough's Blue Planet II showed devastating scenes of albatross parents feeding plastic to their chicks, plastic waste has been a growing concern for many. It's no surprise those grab-and-go water bottles you pick up on the way into your Pilates class aren't great for the environment - in fact, three-quarters of plastic water bottles are thrown away in landfills every year.

One of the simplest changes you can make to your gym routine is rejecting single-use plastic. This starts with investing in a reusable water bottle and bringing a tote bag to stuff your sweaty gear in afterwards, rather than relying on the gym to provide plastic kit bags.

4. Cycle or walk to the gym

Switching up the way you get to the gym is a really simple hack for adding to your overall calorie burn while helping the environment in the process. If it's within cycling distance - and safe to do so - consider biking to your gym or leisure centre, rather than adding to air pollution by jumping in the car. Cheaper too.

5. Get a natural yoga mat

Many of the products we use on a daily basis end their life-cycle in landfill, and worn-out yoga mats are no exception. Traditional exercise mats are typically made with PVC plastic which can often contain heavy metals and phthalates, so try and purchase a natural rubber version instead that will biodegrade with time (although wait until your current PVC one needs replacing first - or you'll be creating waste!).

Manduka's eKO Lite mat (£67, manduka.com) is made from natural tree rubber that's biodegradable and non-Amazon-harvested, so you can downward dog safe in the knowledge your mat isn't harming the environment.

7. Recycle your old kit

You might think your old Lululemon leggings are out of season, but there might a friend who'd jump at the chance of owning them. Arrange an activewear clothes swap with friends, donate unwanted items to the local charity shop or sell gym kit that's still in good condition on sites like eBay (ebay.co.uk) and Depop (depop.com).

If your workout wear has seen better days, drop off your unwanted items at a local fabric recycling point - you can find your nearest one by visiting recyclenow.com.

Runners Need (runnersneed.com) also run recycling promotions through the year, where you can trade in your old trainers at one of their stores and get a £20 voucher towards a new pair.

Since the scheme was set up in 2016, the brand's collected over 1.5 tonnes of old running gear to be recycled or re-used.

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