The Scandinavians have gifted us with a number of wonderful innovations, like saunas, baby boxes, and the modern zipper, and now we've got one more: plogging, a new workout craze that is poised to sweep the nation. But, uh, what is plogging? And why on earth is it called that?
Plogging, as Cosmopolitan points out, is actually part exercise, part environmental activism. All it involves is jogging while simultaneously stopping to pick up trash, which sounds sort of ridiculous, but actually makes a lot of sense. The phenomenon reportedly started in Sweden, according to the BBC, with Scandinavians so concerned about the amount of trash and plastic clogging up the environment that they started organizing groups of people who jog while collecting litter along the running route. Ploggers outfit themselves with a bag for litter and a pair of gloves, and aim to collect at least one bag of trash in the course of their run. The term stems from the Swedish phrase "plocka upp," which means "pick up," and, obviously, jogging. And though it initially became popular in Europe, with global cities like Paris and Berlin getting in on the action, it has since made its way over to our side of the pond.
"I’m not going to just let litter sit there. I’m not going to just walk past that plastic bottle," plogger Emily Wright, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, told the Washington Post. "It’s not that I don’t think it’s gross to pick it up. I do. But I also think it’s gross for a person to not take responsibility for it." Wright told WaPo she often found cigarette butts, foam containers, bottle caps, and other small bits of litter during her run, along with some other fun pieces of trash. "There are an alarming number of full diapers," she said. "They turn my stomach the most."
And while plogging is good for the environment, it's also fairly good for you. Not only are ploggers getting their heart rates up by running, the "stop-squat-and-pick-up-trash" motion plogging requires is essentially a burpee, which is one of the toughest and most physically rewarding fitness moves. "It makes me feel good for so many reasons," Wright told the Washington Post.
Plogging is starting to pick up even more here thanks to a recent partnership between anti-littering non-profit Keep America Beautiful and the Swedish health app Lifesum, according to the Washington Post. App users are now able to track their plogging miles, making it an even more attractive form of exercise along the lines of Fitbit and Map-My-Run, while still touting the pro-environmental angle. "Litter impacts our quality of life and economic development, and often ends up as marine debris, polluting our waterways and oceans and harming wildlife and the environment," Keep America Beautiful spokesperson Mike Rosen said in a statement announcing the partnership last month. "Plogging is brilliant because it is simple and fun, while empowering everyone to help create cleaner, greener and more beautiful communities. All you need is running gear and a bag for trash or recyclables, and you are not only improving your own health, but your local community too."
Plogging could have some downsides, however. Personal trainer Don Saladino told Cosmopolitan that the unnatural movements associated with picking up and carrying trash while running could hurt you in the long run. "Walking with a weight on one side causes the opposite side of the body to engage for stability — and that's all good if you maintain proper posture and switch sides to train evenly," he said. "But running with a weight poses more risks than benefits. You can also create strength imbalances and trigger neck or back pain — to combat this, Saladino says only experienced runners should practice plogging, and should be sure to shift the trash bag from one side to the other.