Hong Kong Gym Powers Lights with Treadmills

A health club in Hong Kong has figured out how to harness the energy created by gym rats running on treadmills and trudging up Stairmasters. The club is using that energy to power some of the gym's lights.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that a health club in Hong Kong has figured out how to harness the energy generated on their treadmills and stairmasters and rowing machines and put it to useful purposes. The club has rigged up its exercise machines to a battery, which in turn powers the gym's lights, so members can feel they are not just keeping fit and looking good, but doing their part to save the world, one pair of lycra-clad legs at a time. Exercisers who run, climb and row in place at this Hong Kong club can generate enough power to run three TV sets and five 60-watt bulbs, enough for flattering light and the choice of CNN, professional wrestling or reruns of "Friends."

Harnessing human muscle is not a new idea. The first telephones were hand cranked. And there were hand cranked flashlights and radios. We even sell some on our Web site. But there are some new products that use activities already in motion, like walking and exercising, to generate energy. They're called parasitic generators. For example, there's a shoe that converts the motion of walking into electricity, and a Dutch firm is building a dance floor that stores the energy created by those jumps, bumps and grinds and uses it to light the floor.

Al Gore may have won an Oscar last weekend for his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," but we doubt he could have thought that one up.

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