Ready to Plog? Fitness Craze Pairs Aerobic Exercise With Litter Removal

Ploggers pose with some of their day's litter collection. (Photo: Funk Dooby [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)

You’re enjoying a leisurely stroll through your favorite local park. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a jogger dressed in full workout regalia sprints by clutching a small plastic bag filled with crumpled beer cans and snack cake wrappers. Odd. You might be inclined to think that you’ve witnessed the world’s most depraved fitness nut in action. But in reality, you’ve just spotted your very first "plogger."

A social media-driven lifestyle craze like only Sweden can produce, plogging is basically jogging re-christened as an act of calorie-burning environmental stewardship. Just think of hygge but with more sweating and a greater chance of coming in contact with soggy cigarette butts. The idea is, that when out for a jog, you swoop down and pick up errant trash as you go. Simple as that. A little civic beautification while you burn calories. (The name, by the way, is a portmanteau of jogging and plocka upp, Swedish for "to pick up.")

While organized litter clean-up efforts aren’t necessarily known for being brisk or involving sporty attire, plogging is as fast-paced as you want it to be. You don’t have to jog. You can scoop up fast-food wrappers as you sprint down a city sidewalk, tossing the rubbish into a trash receptacle with the dexterity and grace of an Olympic discus thrower. You can slow it down to a lively amble, carefully scanning the path ahead for anything within quick plucking distance. You can come to a full stop momentarily to work on core-strengthening squatting movements. You can go solo, with a partner or with a group. You can even plog with a dog.

All that matters is that you’re propelling yourself forward as a form of aerobic exercise while also cleaning up litter.

It's jogging, but taking it up a notch

According to the Telegraph, plogging first materialized circa 2016 (Core77 credits Stockholm-based environmentalist and fitness enthusiast Erik Ahlström, seen in the video above, for coining the phrase) and is just now beginning to gain serious attention outside of Sweden, a country that you wouldn’t suspect has all that much litter strewn about to begin with.

But the squeaky clean Scandinavian nation must have some amount of errant rubbish given that Instagram is positively filled with photos of smiling, compression shorts-wearing Swedes hauling overstuffed trash bags over their shoulders. They make it look natural, like litter removal has always been part of their workout routine. Oh, those infallible Swedes. Sometimes a bit of healthy competition is thrown in for good measure — who can complete a timed jog with the heftiest bag o’ litter?

As the fad grows in popularity, ploggers have become increasingly easy to identify. However, as mentioned, they can initially throw you for a loop. After all, how many joggers do you see wearing heavy-duty rubber gloves? And in addition to a decent pair of sneakers, a bag of some sort in which to stash the collected trash before properly disposing of it is de rigueur.

Everybody's doing it

Outside of Sweden, plogging seems to have garnered particular interest in the U.K. (the Telegraph calls it the "most 2018 fitness trend yet," whatever that means). This includes the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, where at least one local jogging group has tried incorporating litter removal into its routine.

The group is lead by Anna Christopherson, a native Swede (surprise, surprise) who notes that the thankless task of collecting litter has "always been a thing in Sweden."

"It’s not that everyone should be running about picking up other people’s litter. It should be put in the bin in the first place. But I believe all of us should make an effort to keep our surroundings clean," Christopherson tells the Scotsman.

Vicky Elliot, a plogging newbie, joined Christopherson for the group’s inaugural trash removal-centered workout. "For me running is an opportunity to exercise my body, clear my head and, if I’m running with company, to socialise," she explains. "Why not mix up the usual route with a chance to chase each other to the coffee cup blowing down the street or jumping for the plastic bag caught in the tree?"

Jo Stevens of JogScotland is more to happy to see enthusiasts like Christopherson and Elliot trotting around town with trash bags in hand. She tells the Scotsman:

"For people who jog regularly it’s great to introduce a bit of variety into your sessions. This looks like a good way of doing something different, which benefits the community. Quite a few joggers already take it on themselves to pick up litter when they see it in their running spots. Having a whole group of joggers doing this regularly could make a real difference to parks, paths and pavements."

Outside of Sweden and Scotland, plogging has also caught on in France, Germany, Australia and not all that surprisingly, Denver.

Do you think you’ll don thick gloves and scoop up some litter the next time you’re out for a run? Or is handling trash while jogging a bit too advanced?

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