York gym’s new exercise machines generate electricity

Photo Courtesy of York University Athletics

Students can now break a sweat while contributing to York’s energy savings at the Tait McKenzie Centre. 

It’s all thanks to 42 new exercise machines that were installed at York’s on-campus gym in August 2023. The machines use the movement of users to generate electricity, which is then put back into York’s energy grid. 

Electricity-generating exercise equipment has been implemented in various locations already, including a New York-based facility called Eco Gym, which had similar technology as early as 2018. But this investment makes York one of the first universities in Canada to have this type of equipment in such large numbers.

The investment came at a time when the York gym was already looking at replacing some of its worn-down equipment. “We could have spent the same amount of money on equipment that comes with a large LCD display screen that draws significant power from the grid,” explained Art McDonald, Acting Associate Director of Recreation. “Instead we chose equipment that adds energy to the grid. Same functionality, same durability, same price.”

The machines can produce 19,264 kilowatts of energy per year — enough to boil 7,700 kettles of water. 

“The state-of-the-art energy-generating machines are nearly half a million dollars in investment,” said Steven Chuang, Executive Director of Athletics & Recreation. “We have seen tremendous usage on a regular basis, not to mention the renewable power that our users are generating as a result of their exercise. This couldn’t have been a better result.”

The in-house energy production is estimated to save the university around $25,000 over the next five years. 

The machines also have a leaderboard feature that allows users to see their contributions to York’s energy savings. “This helps quantify the exact power being generated for those that are interested in their output,” said McDonald. 

He also mused that the leaderboard “allows for some friendly competitions for those interested in our fitness centre and/or in our spin classes.”

In a March news release, York’s Chief Sustainability Officer Mike Layton said this investment is “what being part of a university is all about – contributing not only to making the university space better but making a better world.”

In addition to the new machines, Chuang also says Tait McKenzie “will be moving onto our phase two of capital refurbishment, by introducing a new slate of strength training equipment to meet the evolving trends in the industry and meet the needs of our current and future student populations.

“We invite York students and members to provide feedback to us so that we are able to make your experience a better one,” he encourages.

These new electricity-generating machines come as part of a broader move towards energy sustainability at York, centering around a net-zero emissions goal by 2040. This includes using wastewater heat recovery to supplement Glendon College’s heating systems.

About the Author

By Hale Mahon

Health Editor


Hale is a third year student in Public Administration with a Minor in Psychology. He loves politics and sits on a few boards and committees at York, including the Student Centre Board of Directors, the Student Council for LA&PS, and the university’s academic senate. As health editor, he wants to see how medical and scientific research can inform political and organizational decisions, and believes that well-communicated science can improve outcomes for everyone. Outside of work, he enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, camping, photography, and watching 90’s sitcoms.


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