25 May 2018 Story Cities and lifestyles

Plogging: The eco-friendly workout trend that’s sweeping the globe

A new international workout trend has made it possible to get in shape and care for the environment at the same time.

Groups of people around the world are picking up trash while out running, an activity known as “plogging”, a combination of jogging and the Swedish word for pick up, plocka upp. Started in Sweden, this innovative activity has gone global, gaining popularity among environmentalists and fitness enthusiasts alike.

The plogging movement was started by Erik Ahlström in 2016. After moving to Stockholm from a small ski-community in northern Sweden, Ahlström became frustrated with the amount of litter he saw while riding his bike to work every day.

Erik Ahlstrom
Erik Ahlström launched the plogging movement in 2016. (Plogga)

“I was shocked by the amount of junk there was in nature,” says Ahlström. “The same debris could remain in the road for several weeks without anyone picking it up, so I started picking it up. It felt good in my heart to clean up even a small place.”

Stopping to clean up trash became a habit, then a part of his exercise routine as he incorporated the activity into his runs. By 2016 other people were joining in, and plogging runs, with groups of couple coming together to run and pick up trash, became official events in Sweden.

Since then the movement has grown organically around the world, thanks in large part to social media. Initially used as a tool for organizing events, plogging-related posts and hashtags have helped spread the activity from country to country, with most new participants inspired by what they’ve seen online.

This global reach has led to over 40 countries being represented in the official online “Plogga” group and major events have been organized in nearly all of them. While most of the initial growth was in Europe, plogging groups can now be found as far away as Ecuador and Thailand, a global reach that has far exceeded the initial expectations of the movement’s founder.

Plogging is "good for the body and mind, and of course good for the environment,” says Ahlström. (Plogga)

Besides the obvious environmental benefits, the extra movements in plogging makes it healthier than if you simply ran past the trash. According to Ahlström, a half hour of plogging burns 288 calories, compared with the 235 calories burned during regular jogging. Ahlström believes that the multiple benefits of plogging, combined with its accessibility, are what have helped make it so popular. “It’s a low-intensity exercise format, usually lasting about 60 minutes. But at the same time, it’s smart, good for the body and mind, and of course good for the environment.”

The beauty of plogging, Ahlström believes, is its simplicity. Unlike many other exercise trends, it doesn’t require classes or expensive equipment, just a bag and a desire to make a positive difference. “Everyone is allowed to do it how they want to,” he says. “Anything works. The most important thing is that waste is being taken out of nature.”

#BeatPlasticPollution is the theme of World Environment Day 2018.