It’s cardio for a good cause and promises high calorie burn while you do your bit against plastic pollution. Here’s everything you need to know about the Swedish fitness craze and how to get involved

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Before you roll your eyes at yet another hipster lifestyle buzzword migrating down from Nordic lands ( hygge , lykke and lagom  are three ever so slightly smug movements that have infiltrated everything from home furnishings to health), the Swedish portmanteau we’re discussing today won’t set you back £40 for a candle or see you shelling out for mindfulness stationery.

Plogging, where you pick up discarded plastic as you run around your neighbourhood, is about as virtuous as wellness trends get, from both a health and environmental point of view. People are discovering the benefits all over the globe, from Stockholm to Paris to Bangkok. New clubs are springing up around the UK and if you live in London, you’ll be able to join a free event to learn the art of plogging from a Swedish expert and the wellness author Madeleine Shaw at the end of July. Plus, you can trade in your rubbish for a free pair of trainers made from recycled bottles (more details below).

Here’s what plogging entails, how it benefits your fitness and why you’ll have a better endorphin rush than ever post-plog…

What is plogging?

The not particularly dynamic sounding word is derived from a mash-up of the Swedish for ‘pick up’ or ‘pluck ‘ (plocka upp) and jog (jogga). Plogging essentially involves going for a run/ jog and picking up rubbish en route, and the trend was established in Sweden in 2016. In part thanks to global awareness surrounding plastic pollution  (and that episode of Blue Planet II), plus the general eagerness to jump on any Scandi bandwagon going, plogging has now taken off across the world, with plogging groups and large social media communities springing up across Asia, Europe and the US. There are now almost 18,000 Instagram posts tagged with #plogging too if you require inspo for your rubbish runs.


How do I plog?

You’ll need your usual running gear, plus gloves (you’ll be reeaallly glad you brought those) and a rubbish bag. Once you’ve finished your plog and your rubbish bag is full, you dispose of it in the relevant bins, recycling where possible. By the end of the plog you’ll basically be doing weights if you live in any kind of built-up environment. Which brings us to…


Why should I plog?

The list is a long one, but we’ll kick off with the benefits for number one. Plogging burns roughly 300 calories per half hour according to footwear company Vivobarefoot , and unlike your average run or jog, it incorporates full body resistance and strengthening moves such as squatting, lunging and stretching along the way as you reach for rubbish. In theory, you’ll walk away with a tighter core, stronger thighs and more toned arms thanks to hauling garbage about for an hour or so. The stop-start nature of plogging is also conducive to HIIT style exercise , although if you live in a city centre you may find that you don’t pick up much pace between abandoned plastic bottles and pizza boxes. Best get your sprint on, but when weighing up the pros and cons, the positives of plogging far exceed the drawbacks, and you can always add extra compound movements in there if you’re not working up enough of a sweat for your liking. If you find ‘vanilla’ running boring, plogging also adds extra action and interest.

On the eco front, if Attenborough’s documentary hasn’t yet convinced you to litter pick, the fact that we in the UK bought a million plastic bottles every minute in 2017, with this stat set to increase by another 20 per cent by 2021 according to Vivobarefoot founder Galahad Clark, means that plastic pollution is set to become an even graver issue than it already is if we don’t individually act. From drinking from  reusable coffee cups  to buying  refillable and recycled beauty products , there’s heaps we can do to stem the flow of single-use plastic, and plogging is just one of those steps.

In addition to physical and environmental kudos, the community spirit in plogging groups is said to be motivating from both a fitness and philanthropy point of view, plus the post-run ache will be all the sweeter when you know you’ve helped to save marine life during a Saturday morning sweat session. You can turn plogging into a competitive sport to up the ante, or just go for a gentle plog around the park and leave your local green spaces looking far more spruced up than previously. Plus, the more ploggers on our streets, hopefully the less inclined passers-by will be to litter in the first place. If nothing else, you’re getting out an about in nature, which has been shown to benefit mental health  (as long as you let the litter frustration go).


Where can I plog?

You can plog solo, or join a plogging ‘run club’. Follow Plogging UK  on Twitter for regular updates on plogging groups, or if you live in London, get a date in your diary. Footwear brand Vivobarefoot  has started a plogging club, with the next plog scheduled for Saturday 28th July 10am to 11.30am.

The plog will take the form of a workout throughout London, picking up litter as you run while incorporating bodyweight exercises such as push-ups. You’ll be joined by cookery writer and blogger Madeleine Shaw  and Swedish swimming and running champion Maja Tesch , a committed plogger who’ll also be able to give you tips of technique and athletic success. She’s especially keen to train and plog with Londoners as “every year, London authorities collect the equivalent of 1,500 50-metre swimming pools full of waste from the capital, which is shocking. If we can even go a small way to help raise awareness, it will be great.”

You’ll also be rewarded for your plogging prowess on the day, as every plogger with be able to trade in rubbish at the end of the run for a free pair of Vivobarefoot shoes, with every pair made from 17 plastic bottles that were previously in landfills. Vivobarefoot has diverted upwards of two million plastic bottles from being discarded in landfills in the making of its shoes alone, so the litter-gathering will add to these impressive efforts and help to make a real difference. While it can feel demoralising to see rubbish piling up despite your picking and plogging, keeping it up can only pay off healthwise and environmentally, and if the government continues with its war on single-use plastic, the future’s looking a whole lot less plastic from where we’re standing. Add in the likes of REN Clean Skincare’s summer beach clean-ups  and initiatives such as #take3forthesea , encouraging each of us to pick up and dispose of three pieces of rubbish a day, and perhaps plogging will one day become redundant. Until then, squat for the yogurt pot.

The Vivobarefoot Plogging Club will set off from the VIVOBAREFOOT store on 64 Neal Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9PQ at 10am on Saturday 28th July.  Reserve your space here.

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