Interest in energy-efficient treadmills prompts Life Fitness’ independent testing

How and if treadmills are using less energy is becoming a question more frequently asked. Life Fitness had some of its and a few competitors’ models tested by an independent agency.
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As the demand for clubs to cut costs increases, fitness equipment is coming under scrutiny since it can be a huge energy draw -- one of the largest costs of a club and a widening consumer interest in these days of demand for more things “green.”

At Life Fitness, the claims were taken seriously enough to hire an independent testing firm recently to analyze the costs of running its treadmills as well as those of its primary competitors. In results announced April 22, the company determined that it costs a facility, on average, 44 percent less to power Life Fitness treadmills than those of the competitors tested.

Bob Quast, vice president of brand management, told SNEWS® that energy efficiency is becoming an increasingly important selling point.

“The green awareness is growing globally, and customers are very interested in this,” he said.

Quast said Intertek (www.intertek.com), an independent product testing company, had people weighing 220 pounds use treadmills from Life Fitness, Technogym, Star Trac and Precor at speeds of 3.5, 5, 7 and 9 mph. Intertek analyzed the power required to run each machine and concluded that Life Fitness treadmills cost a facility on average 52 percent less to power than Technogym treadmills, 40 percent less than Precor models, and 37 percent less than Star Trac treadmills.

“If you assume you have 20 treadmills going eight hours a day for four years, you get pretty substantial savings of $12,000 over four years,” said Quast.

Not included in the tests were treadmills from SportsArt, which has been promoting its “Eco-Powr” system introduced in 2007. That company has said the brushless motor can save a third in electrical costs when the piece is used at average speeds, and it has a savings calculator on its website

Quast said Life Fitness has spent years steadily improving the energy efficiency of its products. “We’ve been making treadmills since 1991, and over time we have improved a lot of components,” he said. Quast told SNEWS that Life Fitness machines are efficient due to the relatively low amount of energy used in the interface between the treadmill deck and the belt. Also, the company has refined the electronic systems that control the treadmill motor. 

Interest has increased in green practices both for clubs and homes. In a Feb. 10, 2010, SNEWS story, “Clubs see profits going hand-in-hand with implementation of green practices, according to survey,” an IHRSA poll found clubs intended to increase their green practices not only to slice costs but to tap into consumer passions. In fact, in a Dec. 21, 2009, SNEWS story, “Kansas University fitness center powers ‘green game’ ESPN telecast,” we covered a fitness center that was using equipment outfitted with gear that captured the energy produced by elliptical users for other uses -- in this case, an ESPN telecast.

Although home equipment has not garnered the interest in energy savings as commercial equipment has, some have looked beyond the sheer quantity of cost-savings to harnessing consumer interest in being more green-conscious. One fitness entrepreneur Ted Szoch has for years dreamed of taking the watts created in workouts and turning them into useable energy, although the technology is still in its infancy. Click here to see our Dec. 4, 2006, SNEWS story, “From workouts to watts: Using exercise to generate power.” 

In Life Fitness’ tests, the equipment analyzed was commercial treadmills, Quast said; still, two of its home models­­­ -- the Platinum Club Series and Club Series -- have the same guts as the commercial products and would give the home user the same percentage of energy savings.

--Marcus Woolf with Therese Iknoian

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