Fit for Green harnesses power of exercise

IRVINE, Calif.

John Spirko's unique fitness idea uses pedal power to get fit, lower energy bills and even help save the planet.

"You see all the hamsters in the treadmill? So everybody is running and doing all these exercises and that power is being wasted," said Spirko, who figured out a way to capture exercise energy and put it back into the grid with the Fit for Green program.

"Once it goes back into the grid, it's being used by the lights and the environmental control systems," Spirko explained.

To put this into perspective, a hardcore workout session produces enough power to make 150 watts. That's the equivalent of burning a 75-watt bulb for two hours.

It makes a small dent in the utility bill at UC Irvine's Anteater Recreation Center, where Spirko has converted eight elliptical machines to a windmill-energy-type system. However, as pedal power catches on, he hopes to have more.

"What's really nice about it is you can compete against other people in the school," said Kristen Schiele, a UCI student.

Schiele says the program is hooked up through social media so kids compete against each other, forming teams and holding contests where they win prizes ranging from Starbucks gift cards to even an iPad.

Spirko said the power measurements from the users are connected to the Web.

"It shows how much energy that I produced, and also when I go back home, I'll look online, I'll see how much energy I produced overall and how much my team has produced overall and how we're doing in regards to competition with other different groups," Schiele explained.

The team that won the March contest pulled off their victory with one student working out on the last day for seven hours to win.

Spirko says there are about 125 companies globally that use this innovation so competitions can be held at universities, businesses and more.

Fit for Green creates clean energy, friendly competitions and, of course, burns calories.

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