The understated benefits of plogging

Get fit and feel good doing it ... let's get plogging.

Get fit and feel good doing it ... let's get plogging. Photo: Instagram

The Scandinavians have worked their inventive magic again, coming up with an ingenious new fitness offering that also happens to be good for the planet.

Known as “plogging” – from a combination of “plocka upp” (Swedish for picking up) and jogging – the new get-hip-while-you-get-fit craze involves picking up rubbish while you jog.

It’s already proving a hit with eco-conscious Australian fitness enthusiasts.

Good for you – and the planet

Brisbane couple Kevin Ji and Zoe Ma say plogging fulfils their goals of keeping fit and helping the environment.

In addition, Mr Ji loves that he is helping animals.

“During our first plogging, I was shocked by the fact that there were so many cigarette butts and straws, which are deadly harmful for wild animals such as birds, turtles, sea lions [and] whales,” he said.

The additional exercise element of plogging comes from the squats, deadlifts and burpees that you’ll do as you reach down to grab rubbish and add it to your bag. It’s true: This workout promises many benefits beyond your average park run.


Brisbane Kevin Ji and Zoe Ma show off a post-exercise haul. Photo: Facebook/Plogging Brisbane

The benefits of plogging

Yujin Lim, an accredited exercise physiologist and director of Optimal Health Exercise Physiology in Melbourne, said plogging might be ideal for those who aren’t otherwise strongly motivated to exercise.

“The stronger the purpose and motivators, the better the long-term adherence, and hence the better the outcomes,” Mr Lim, a spokesman for Exercise and Sports Science Australia, said.

Plogging also helped your body move in more ways than traditional jogging, such as bending, squatting, reaching, and sideways movements, he said.

“This challenges your body in different ways, as well as incorporating a balance and agility component.”

Measuring the “number of pieces of rubbish liberated from the streets” can help to sustain motivation, he said.

Mr Ji added that plogging was a fantastic way to hang out with friends and make new ones. Earlier in 2018, one plogger in Iceland even ran into her country’s President doing his bit for fitness and the planet.

Plogging might not be better for you than jogging, according to David Joyce, a physiotherapist and the head of performance of GWS Giants Football Club, but “it’s 1000 times more effective at improving fitness than sitting on the couch doing nothing”.

“There is also an additional feel-good factor that probably gives a bit of a boost to one’s dopamine levels,” the Australian Physiotherapy Association spokesman said.

Are there any risks?

David Joyce said the main risk for beginner ploggers was being just a bit too keen – “so enthusiastic that they go from not doing much to plogging 10 kilometres every day”.

“Starting small and increasing distance by a maximum of 10 per cent each week is a fairly sensible progression,” he said.

Even better, he said, was to plalk before you plog … that means walking while you pick up litter, before progressing to jogging. Mr Joyce advises starting with two to three sessions a week, with a day off in between each one to allow muscles, tendons and bones to recover and adapt.

Mr Lim agreed, adding that injury rates from plogging are unlikely to be higher than in more conventional sporting activities, provided ploggers wear gloves.

He recommended those with lower back or knee problems that limit their movements should consult an exercise physiologist or health professional before they start. Good muscular endurance in the lower body and core would also be an advantage to beginner ploggers.

Help the planet

Mr Ji emphasised that plogging’s aim was to clean the planet.

All potential ploggers need to get started is a rubbish bag and gloves. Special tools such as a Nifty Nabber can help grab rubbish from tricky spots, but aren’t really necessary.

Ploggers should sort their waste at the end of their exercise, and recycle where possible.

The experts also agree that plogging is a great way to help people meet physical activity guidelines.

“Anyone interested has my unreserved stamp of approval to get after it,” Mr Lim said. “Help your physical and mental health, help the environment and facilitate social connections.”

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