Good for the environment, good for you. Plogging is a win-win. So what is it exactly?

Do you ever think jogging is, well, a bit boring? Well here’s a solution. Groups of people around the world are picking up rubbish while out running, an activity known as “plogging”, a combination of jogging and the Swedish word for pick up, “plocka up”. Started in Sweden, this strange activity has gone global, gaining popularity among environmentalists and fitness enthusiasts alike. People like you.

The plogging movement was started by Erik Ahlström in 2016, after he became became frustrated with the amount of litter he saw while riding his bike to work every day.

“I was shocked by the amount of junk there was in nature,” he said. “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 dispose of other people’s rubbish became a habit, then a part of his exercise routine. By 2016 other people were joining in, and plogging runs, with groups of couple coming together to run and pick up rubbish, became official events in Sweden.

And there are real benefits to your fitness says personal trainer Stef Larden, “Plogging is a great way of keeping active. Not only are you jogging but you’re adding extra, total body, functional movement to your workout; squatting low and recruiting your core to pick up the litter and challenging your arms as the weight of your bag grows with what you have collected along the way”.

“Stock up on eco-friendly bin bags, and wear a pair of old gloves”>

But there’s more, says Stef. “It also encourages you to use a specific variation of running called Fartlek (another Swedish invention!). Most aerobic exercise is based on repetitive movement but this can end up being really tedious – particularly if you’re a novice runner. However with plogging the change in intervals between picking up litter helps to keep you stimulated. Plus if you can add in variation in your speed between one pick up and the next you will burn more calories than you would by just staying at one pace”.

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.”

At a time when we’re all hyper aware of the eco-disaster heading our way, plogging gives us all a way to do our own small part to save the world. 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.”

Says Jo Moseley, outdoor fitness fan and keen plogger: “My plogging challenge this year is to a two minute litter pick or beach clean wherever I am each day. For me the motivation is a combination of being aware of the increase in litter – especially plastic – and wanting to do my little bit for the environment. It adds a real sense of purpose to my running and a feeling of guardianship and belonging to my usual routes. I’m never going to be the fastest runner or break any records but it’s one way I can make a difference”.

If you’re going plogging stock up on eco-friendly bin bags, and wear a pair of old gloves. Some ploggers carry their trash with them while they run, while others put the litter in bins as they go along.

Plogging has now become so popular that the term was a contender for the Collins Dictionary word of the year. To find events near you, take a look at the Twitter account PloggingUK, and #plogging on Instagram.

Words: Marina Gask. With thanks to Un Environment Assembly.