by , 03/08/07

HUMAN-POWERED GYMS in Hong Kong, Human powered gyms, California fitness, Powered By You

No pain, no gain, right? At this gym, the new mantra may be “no pain, no power.” Just as the Sustainable Dance Club is turning dance steps into energy, French inventor Lucien Gambarota and Wharton grad and entrepreneur Doug Woodring are bringing clean, sustainable energy to the gym using good old-fashioned manpower. The two have joined forces with Hong Kong’s California Fitness, a subsidiary of 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide, to launch a revolutionary concept in which energy burned off by exercisers is diverted and converted to power lighting fixtures, while excess energy is stored in a battery. The gym’s 13 step, cycling and cross-training machines in the “Powered by YOU” program are popular with members. As gym member Rita Wong states, “It’s very good motivation. You can watch yourself burning fat to turn on the light.”

Watch the video!

According to Steve Clinefelter, President of California Fitness, “One person has the ability of producing 50 watts of electricity per hour when exercising at a moderate pace….If a person spends one hour per day running on the machine, he/she could generate 18.2 kilowatts of electricity and prevent 4,380 liters of CO2 released per year.” We love the idea of burning calories in order to NOT burn fossil fuels. The “Powered by YOU” program enables users to improve their health and the environment—one step at a time.

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  1. icrislopez January 27, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Where can i buy this machines, its for a gym thank you so much

  2. jason crowther April 2, 2012 at 10:50 am

    i’ve used a rowing ergometer to generate 46,600+ watts in a 41-minute setting. i bet the variables will be increased through a sustained usage.
    in 1981, i sustained a severe closed head-injury in a car accident. to overcome these deficits, i found regular workouts on rowing machine to be an efficeint way to strengthen my arms, legs, lungs and heart that were weakened by said injury; yet, why isn’t this method used to decrease our dependency on oil produced overseas and increase the strengths or abilities of the american at-large populations?

  3. GirlsGames August 18, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Honestly, I really like and definitely believe your article in here. I really hope more author totally have precisely the same thinking just like you.

  4. TBone November 13, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    A great looking idea… but here you see how pitiful the human output is. (John\’s calculation from March 2007 is terribly wrong, the actual figure of tonnes of oil equivalent in his example would be less than 0.17 tonne, instead of several thousand that he arrived to).

    While fun, this has negligible impact on our energy needs, building the additional equpiment needed to extract energy from training machines costs more energy than it would ever bring.

  5. johnsonaaron October 6, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Awesome post ,All the given information is so informative for us ,I really appreciated from your information.I will bookmark it,and sharing it with my friends.Thanks.

  6. davidpickup August 31, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I mention this post in my analysis of the human powered gym concept.
    Take a look if you are interested

  7. shockware August 17, 2010 at 8:51 am

    This concept has taken over the world. I’ve heard it being used in a City jail in the Philippines to power the lights of the prisoners at night. Even in Texas City Jail they also require the inmates to use the stationary bikes that powers the TV they watch! Just saw a summary of the concept being used here do scroll at the very bottom of the article to see the summary that I’m talking about.

  8. econewbie July 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Very glad to see this actually/possibly becoming a reality. I alluded to it in a Davos video several years ago.

  9. Louise Ratulowski April 29, 2010 at 3:33 am

    I have visited your site before. Beautiful boudoir model. IMHO you have a sexy web site

  10. Sandra Carter April 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I am trying to Make Western State College of Colorados Fitness Center more green. I want to find out how to get energy making bikes. Do you have any ideas on how I should go about this?

  11. Emi February 28, 2010 at 5:55 am


    Tout d’abord bravo pour cette super idée, à exploiter!
    Je souhaiterais plus de renseignements sur le rendement de ces machines, et sur une éventuelle utilisation en France, pour un nouveau concept de salle de sport.


  12. Emi February 28, 2010 at 5:50 am


    Je souhaiterais avoir plus de renseignements, sur ces machines (rendement), et savoir si ces machines peuvent être achetées pour une exploitation en France. Cette idée me semble idéale dans le cadre de la création d’un nouveau type de salles de sport (écologique, aven une ambiance zen).


  13. gege November 4, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Good idea, like little cute mice running on the wheels. At this point, exercise bike are more efficiency that treadmills especially the electric treadmills. Like my friend did, use lifespan exercise bike as power generator to provide energy for the treadmill. Brilliant ideas.

  14. treesugar September 16, 2009 at 12:54 am

    lovely, i agree with stephen that building a model from the ground up to capture the most movement should be key. should this technology be use for prisons?

  15. frankscags July 14, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    I would love to get involved in this idea.

  16. boaster June 24, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Yes, there is the issue of calories burned to create the power, but no form of power generation can defeat the laws of thermodynamics. The point is, people are going to be exercising anyway so it’s better to capture that power for something rather than nothing.

  17. zaneselvans June 24, 2008 at 5:23 am

    Of course, each calorie of food energy you burn requires about 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce (at least in the US), so this is going to be a losing proposition climatically and energetically. See Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

  18. giovanni May 9, 2008 at 12:48 am

    this is for john
    john you calculation and your arguments are based on how much oil can we save well this is good but not good enough the idea is to find a way to eliminate oil from the equation may be looking at solar film technologies will reshape your nice ideas

  19. amanmalik April 25, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Can anybody tell me how this machine works in detail, every single if possible,

  20. Roj April 1, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    This is what happens when you don\’t pull your finger out after a brainstorm!
    I have diary notes of my invention from 1993.
    The only difference with my system is that it\’s grid connected and each user has a swipe card which they swipe on whatever machine used which stores relevant information such as joules expended and converted to electrical energy over time. This is a good motivation tool for the user and educates the user on energy transfer in regards to the energy content of food they eat and then converted to mechanical to electrical energy.
    My grand vision is seeing huge gyms one day used as charging stations for the inevitable electric car.
    Oh well, better to see it out there than not at all!

    Good on ya Lucien!

  21. rookie March 13, 2008 at 7:40 am

    there are bike generators on the market, there are models that are for real bycicles and models that are just a set of pedals that you can use as you please (feet or hands, in whatever position you can set it up).

    here is one site

  22. Frank March 12, 2008 at 2:35 am

    Is it possible to send the electricity generated back out to the grid and sell it to utility companies? I don’t see the benefit in turning on a useless light in the gymnasium. Plus, that would elimate the costly battery pack. What about resistance machines besides cardio stuff? For example, Lat pull down machines, leg presses, chest presses, etc.

  23. JenaAnn February 28, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I am currently designing an eco-friendly wellness center and i was just wondering if i design it with the “human powered” in mind, can we spec just any cardio machines to do this or would it have to be a certain one?

  24. Nick February 13, 2008 at 4:12 am

    I love it!

    Just for the record:
    1) one person has the ability to produce 50 watts exercising at a moderate pace (not “watts per hour” – this commonly used unit doesn’t exist – it would express joules per second*hour – some sort of acceleration of power generation).
    2) one person exercising one hour per day for a year would generate 18.2 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year (not “kilowatts per year” – again, that would mean would be some sort of acceleration of power generation, or an addition to electricity generation capacity). Additionally, the average person would produce ~20 kWh/yr, not 18.2 – remember sig. figs!
    3) although not blatantly incorrect, reporting the prevention of carbon dioxide in liters is sloppy (at least without reporting what conditions are being assumed). A liter is not an absolute measure of a gaseous substance, as the density of gases change based on pressure and temperature. Assuming NTP (20oC, 1 atm), the density of carbon dioxide is 0.001842 kg/L, yielding 8.07 kg. At STP (0oC, 1 atm), the density is 0.001977 kg/L, yielding 8.65 kg. This sloppiness could be fixed in one of two ways (preferably both) – by expressing it in an absolute quantity (mass), or by expressing it with an appropriate number of significant figures (there’s no way this value could be known to an accuracy of +/- 5 liters), in which case the issue would be lost in the uncertainty. (Densities from Engineering Toolbox)

  25. Ronnie December 28, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Hi guys,
    Have any of you guys constructed/fabricated any of such machines yet? I am constructing one and I am interested to discuss with any of you on how to improve the efficiency.

    btw, any of you happen to reside in Singapore? Well, at least, that’s where i am.


  26. Stephen October 26, 2007 at 4:45 pm


    Well, you have stolen my idea. But that’s OK. I am thinking of a slightly different approach.

    It seems to me that the machines that we use in gyms today do not translate potential human energy as efficiently as they could. In other words, for this idea to really have greater impact we would need to design some new machines from the ground up. For example, while cardio-machines are the obvious best use for now, they don’t make full use of upper body capacity for generating power at the same time as the legs are generating power. New machines that take advantage of whole body motion could double the possible output on a per machine basis. And combining that with possible efficiencies in translating the energy (smoother gear ratios, less friction, etc.) might produce even better outcomes.

    Thanks and good luck!

  27. Dave October 10, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    You cannot stop people from going indoors to exercise, even if it is nice outside. By using the human to power or replace some of the power used to operate the machine, it will only reduce the amount of power that would have normally been used at the gym. This wil also start an attitude towards users going “green”, and possibly make a real difference.
    Have you contemplated using an access card which records the amount of energy produced by the user, and then give a “refund” back to the user? By recording the time the user is exercising, there may be a way to get insurance companies to pay for some or all of the gym use in order to reduce the user’s future health problems (AKA: Preventative Maintenence).

  28. Lara July 21, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    I had this idea and was searching the net to see if it had been done! Just imagine if ALL gyms across the world converted their cardio machines to generate electricity, Wow!

  29. Jose June 11, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    I think this is a great idea. I remember seeing the concept in a movie a few years ago where a guy had three different types of exercise machines hooked up to power his t.v. Thats actually what I was looking for when I found this site. Can this be done? I would like more info on this technology. And as for all of you people being so negative ni picking about how out put of energy and people at the gym. People will go to the gym either way. Wouldn’t it be better if this technology was at every gym thereby still saving some energy? We need to keep developing this technology and passing it around so that people can use it and improve on it in time.

  30. Fredrik Granlund June 3, 2007 at 6:46 am

    Hi Lucien,

    You have good reasons to be proud of these clever energy saving initiatives, regardless of how small they may seem.
    However, I would like you to clearlify one thing, you say “when one user produces 50 wh we save 150 watts (aircon-lighting)”. How can this be? Isn’t it really the other way around? When a user enters your gym, lights get turned on (from your video it looks like approx. 60 W), in addition the mere presence of the user adds a 150-200 W of body heat radiation extra load to you air conditioning system (depending on degree of physical activity of the user). By tapping some of the power generated by the user you are cutting the 210-260 W loss caused by each user. If your users, instead of going to your gym, would decide to bike in the park or jog at the beach they’d actually save you more than 5 times more CO2! But maybe your climate is already too hot for outdoor activites.

    Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood your reasoning!

  31. CS May 21, 2007 at 4:26 am

    Wow, sounds like great idea! I hope this takes off around the world…

  32. Darren April 23, 2007 at 7:31 am

    I am interested in bringing this to a chain of clubs in Australia. Can someone provide me with details of how I can get in touch with the guys responsible?


  33. Glen T March 24, 2007 at 10:32 am

    How about pedal powered computers or televisions, or somesuch? That’ll give people more motivation than mere fitness.

  34. Karen March 20, 2007 at 10:09 am

    This is a great idea! I would love to see some of this equipment for home use so that we can power our computers or home appliances with power from our treadmills or turbo trainers. I don’t mind if the energy we can produce is low at first – at least we are doing something for our enviroment even though it is small. I am sure that there are a lot of green consumers out there that can make this happen. The more we focus on green technology the better it will become.

    I hope to see a gym like this in the UK soon! I would certainly consider signing up.

  35. Beck March 18, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Hi there,

    great initiative indeed. Also see the Sustainable Dance Club project if you think this is interesting. A cool project that is being developed in Rotterdam by an organisation called Enviu.



  36. David Sims March 17, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    If you are into DIY experimentation, you can do build your own electricity-generating exercise equipment with widely available rare-earth magnets. Take a look at, especially the wind and experiments page.

  37. Julia March 14, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    goodbye obesity… hello green power!

  38. Nats March 14, 2007 at 5:23 am

    This is fabulous! My friend was talking about this exact idea last Spring. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this.

    Could we have an option that allows gentle exercise at desks to power laptops/ desktop computers?

  39. Naomi March 9, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    This is terrific! I have recently been thinking that elected representatives might be able to use their own time better when sitting, hour after hour, in all the various hearings that they have to endure. I have suggested that if they sat instead on excercycles that it would be a great way for them to stay in shape! Instaed of the current approach of sitting on their rear ends for hour after hour. And now, if this energy generating component could also be added? Wow. This would be a fantastic reform… on several fronts!

    Other than that… my additional comment would be this: Why are the folks who comment here always so negative? Every great invention and/or social reform had to start someplace, right? How about projecting some positiveity on these efforts instead of always carping on all the less-than-perfect aspects of a certain idea?

  40. john March 9, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    i punched in a number wrong. the answer is actually a orrder of magnitude lower

  41. john March 9, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    man you are one boring guy anonymous
    everythings too much work for you
    maybe you could do a little bit of math and figure it out?

    i think what you are trying to point to is resource consumption
    (the price of the techonlogy is moot)
    (but energy required to dig up, refine, manufacture additional parts is not)

    most of these machines already have methods of generating electricity from their users, with exception of the treadmills alot of them(home models) generate electricity for their cpus autonomously

    say a human being generates 30watts more then normal for output
    now assume there are 30 of these machines and they each get used 6 hours a day( nothing unreasonable i hope)
    30j/s *3600s *6h*30 machines*365days =7095600000 joules
    now google provides a backdrop:
    1 kWh (kilowatt hour) = 3600000 Joule 1 toe (tonne oil equivalent) = 7.4 barrels of crude oil
    so lets figure out how many barrels of oil wed create
    7095600000 joules / 3600000 * 7.4= 14585 barrels of oil

    i dont think thats a trivial amount

  42. lucien gambarota March 9, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    HI Sam , Matt ,Anonymous .
    A) sam you are right it is 50wh .the reporter could not make the difference .
    B) tks
    C) your are also right anonymous ,but what the report did not mention is that :we have connected the lights to the exerciser so the lights are “on” only when there is users .if nobody the lights are “off” .
    when one user produces 50wh we save 150 watts (aircon-lighting) and we dont generate 75 grs of CO2 .
    the setting payback time is for the moment 2 years and soon will be only few months .
    lucien Gambarota

  43. Anonymous March 8, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    I bet it costs as much, or nearly as much, energy to produce and maintain the equipment required to do this than the exercisers will produce in their lifetime. Same problem as hybrid cars — using more expensive technology to become more efficient doesn’t make sense. Turning off some of the lights in the gym would help more.

  44. matt March 8, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Brian Eno had this idea too, it was in his book/diary A Year.
    I think it’s great.

  45. sam March 8, 2007 at 9:44 am

    no not
    “50 watts of electricity per hour”
    watt is a measure of power. joule and watt-hour (or kilowatt-hour) are units of energy. 1 watt means 1 joule per second.

    you can say that a person can produce
    * 50 joules per second
    * 180000 joules per hour
    * 50 watts
    * 50 watt-hours per hour

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