Q: I’m a fitness nut who recently relocated to the sticks from a big city with gyms on almost every corner (some open 24 hours a day!). In my new home, getting to anything resembling a decent fitness center would require a journey that I’d rather not endure. Outdoor activities like biking and running are plentiful in my new rural outpost, but I’m partial to using machines and getting my sweat on in the great indoors, especially in inclement weather. I have some space to spare in my new home and was wondering if you knew of any eco-friendly and/or energy-efficient home exercise equipment worth considering so I don’t succumb to cabin fever up here in the tranquil San Juan Islands.

Curves-less and frightened,

Annie — Lopez Island, Wash.

Hey Annie,

This may not go over well, but you may want to take up a new hobby — painting, organic gardening or collecting seashells, perhaps? Or you could just get used to sweatin’ it out in the presence of Mother Nature because your options for eco-friendly home exercise equipment are pretty limited. But rest assured, you don’t have to resort to ordering a Shake Weight or resurrecting that Buns of Steel VHS tape quite yet.

If you’re looking to make a serious investment, there’s the EcoMill by Woodway, a manually powered treadmill that requires absolutely no electricity. There’s an internal battery used to charge the display console and, naturally, it’s recharged by electricity generated by you. Then there’s the PreCor AMT 100i, a fancy (and similarly pricey) “Adaptive Motion Trainer” (think hopped-up elliptical machine) that’s also completely self-powered. Another nifty electricity-free option is the WaterRower, a wooden rowing machine that actually incorporates water to create resistance and give you an excellent, all-body aerobic workout. The machine is made from sustainably harvested hardwoods like ash, cherry and black American walnut. And you couldn’t ask for better practice in the event that you just can’t take it anymore and need to row yourself off the island and to a proper gym.

The makers of Bowflex also fancy their home gym system to be “green.” How so? While Bowflex home gyms aren’t made from eco-friendly components, they do offer an entire body workout in one machine (instead of several targeted machines), are space-efficient, require no electricity and are built to last. And it goes without saying, for any of these devices, save a few bucks — and valuable resources — by hunting down a previously owned model.

I’m not sure if you’d consider this to be an exercise “machine” per se, but why not give Wii Fit a spin? I think it could be your best bet and certainly the most inexpensive option. Sure, strength training, yoga and aerobics via a video game requires electricity, but you could look into purchasing renewable energy certificates or RECs (your local utility provider doesn’t necessarily need to offer green power to buy them) to offset the electricity used during your Wii workout sessions. Heck, if you have neighbors out there in the boonies who are also lamenting the lack of convenient fitness facilities, why not start a Wii Fit club in your home? It’s a good way to meet like-minded people (if they do exist in your ZIP code) and beat cabin fever. Just be sure to stock up on a few spare PVC- and phthalate-free exercise/yoga mats that are made from recycled/recyclable materials.

So you see, Annie, not all hope is lost but I’d definitely give outdoor exercise that doesn’t require a physical a try, too. Godspeed.

— Matt

Visit our advice archives to see if your question has already been tackled.

Photo: Woodway

MNN homepage photo: A-Digit/iStockphoto

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

What are my options for energy-efficient home exercise equipment?
Matt Hickman runs down some equipment for the gym-deficient.