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Think Green

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How to make your exercise routine eco-friendly

Daily exercise is a great way for men and women to stay healthy and improve their quality of life. Studies have shown that men and women who include exercise as part of their regular routine have a lower risk for a host of ailments, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

But exercise can benefit the planet as much as it can benefit people. The following are a handful of ways men and women can make their exercise routines more eco-friendly.

* Start riding your bicycle. Riding a bicycle isn't just for kids, as cycling has been linked to improved cardiovascular fitness and shown to be a great low-impact exercise for men and women with joint conditions. In addition, riding a bicycle is a great way to burn calories, even when riding at a leisurely pace. According to nutrition and fitness company NutriStrategy, a 205 lb. adult can expect to burn 372 calories during a 60-minute leisurely bike ride (less than 10 miles per hour), while the same person will burn just 233 calories during a slow walk for the same period of time.

But cycling benefits the planet, too. Riding your bicycle to the gym or to work each day saves fuel and can add years to the life of your vehicle, reducing the costly toll of producing and transporting new vehicles. Cycling has even become safer in recent years as more and more people have embraced cycling as a healthy and eco-friendly mode of transportation. For example, bike lanes have become the norm in heavily trafficked New York City, where the bustling metropolis' transportation department reported a 289 percent increase in cycling from 2001 to 2011. So cycling is not only healthy and environmentally friendly, but it's becoming safer as well.

* Avoid bottled water. Whether you're a competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, you're going to need to replenish your body's water supply at some point. Bottled water might seem more convenient in a pinch, but the personal and environmental costs of that convenience is considerable. Bottled water is more expensive than tap water, and those who prefer bottled water because they think it's healthier than tap water should know that 70 percent of the bottled water produced in the United States never crosses state lines for sale, which means it's exempt from oversight by the Food and Drug Administration. So there is no guarantee that bottled water is any different from the water coming from your tap.

But bottled water also hurts the environment, producing more than a ton of plastic waste each year. And according to Food & Water Watch, a watchdog organization that works to ensure the water we consume is safe, the plastic used in water bottles requires 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. A reusable water bottle is a far more eco-friendly way to stay hydrated while you exercise.

* Wear recycled gear. Athletes have numerous options at their disposal with regard to apparel. But not all apparel is created equal. According to Athletes For A Fit Planet, a vast majority of technical apparel is created from polyester, a material derived from petroleum. But many clothing manufacturers now produce apparel and gear made from recycled polyester apparel, and labels typically list whether or not a given product is made from such recycled materials.

Athletes who want to go the extra mile regarding their apparel can recycle their used items when they are no longer up to snuff. Contact a local recycling center to learn about programs in your community, or visit an athletic apparel retailer and ask for their help.

Making exercise a part of your daily routine is a great way to ensure your body stays healthy for years to come. Making such a routine as eco-friendly as possible can ensure the planet stays as healthy as you.