It is all too common to see litter scatter through the beautiful scenery of the country. People can find cigarette butts, six-pack rings, and empty cans and bottles. Whatever the trash, it is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye and it is a reminder of how careless people can be.
The trash can also have deadly effects on the ecosystem and innocent wildlife. The solution requires multi-pronged efforts, but everyone can help, even during routine jogs by “plogging.”
Plogging means picking up trash while jogging.
The new fitness trend began in Scandinavia. (The Swedish word is portmanteau of “plocka upp,” which means “pick-up” and “jogging”). The trend is becoming popular in the United States.
Early in 2018, the health app, Lifesum, launched a feature allowing users to track their plogging, in an effort supported by Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit organization focused on litter prevention.
“Plogging is a way to connect with nature, while helping to restore it,” according to NBC News. The fitness trend has attracted nature lovers who are concerned about the wellbeing of the Earth. This includes author Ashlee Piper, who wrote the book, “Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet.”
Piper said she heard about plogging about a year ago. “Fellow eco-minded influencers that I follow, especially in Scandinavia, seemed to be making a sport of their usual walks/hikes/runs and picking up trash along the way. I have never experienced such an effective fusion of exercise and environmental action.”
People often hike and surf to get into shape and reconnect with nature. These are admirable ways to appreciate the planet, but plogging takes it a step further.
Co-founder of Wicked+, a creative communications agency, Colin Cooley formed a plogging group called the Wicked+ Run Club. This is a way to bring local runners together weekly and do some good. They like to run on the beach, where the litter situation can be hard to ignore.
Cooley told NBC News, “The plogging idea stemmed from my solo beach runs. My office is right off the beach and I’ll often end the workday with a beach run right before sunset. I see so much trash along the way and spend half my time running and the other half picking up trash and sprinting to the nearest trash can. I though, ‘Why not make more of a regular even out of that and get our Wicked+ Run Club crew to come out here with me once a week and clean up our local beach community while we get in a good sand run?’”
It may seem that picking up pieces of trash here and there will not make enough of an impact; however, these small efforts can help tackle a huge problem.
Much of the trash seen may not seem like litter. For example, balloons are celebratory but when they float back down to the ground, they become trash that is not biodegradable. Other litter is improperly recycled and never made it to the facility.
In urban settings, the most common form of litter is packaging from food and beverages. Trash such as plastic bags, coffee cups, plastic bottles, and cigarette butts, according to Piper.
“Our cultural habits got us into this literal mess. Small changes to those habits can help improve the situation.”
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, is an ER doctor and author of “Mom Hacks.” She is also a runner and recommends plogging for the proven benefits of being out enjoying nature.
Gillespie says, “Research has confirmed what we learned as kids – that going outside in nature just makes you feel good. In Japan, they call this ‘forest bathing.’ Time in nature improves heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol and even our immune functioning. Other studies have shown that even being able to see nature from your hospital room can be associated with faster healing times. So, any time you can do exercise outside, not only does it overall make you feel better, it can even make the exercise feel easier.”
Dr. Barbara Bergin, an orthopedic surgeon says, “From a medical standpoint, plogging (or how about ‘plaking,’ which would be walking and picking up litter) naturally emulates human body mechanics. Our prehistoric ancestors walked long distances, and from time to time, would bend over to pick up fruit and nuts and bugs from the ground to eat.”
The act of bending over stretches the buttocks, back, hamstrings, and calves. Plogging is the best form of multitasking. Bergin even recommends plogging and plaking to her patients.
Plaking is an excellent alternative to plogging and anyone can do it with just a few supplies such as a strong plastic bags, not a permeable plastic bag, such as a grocery bag, and disposable gloves. It is unclear what type of garbage people will encounter on their plogging journey. It is best to be prepared. If the plogger is prepared they will not transfer germs from the trash to themselves.
By Jeanette Smith
NBC Better: All about 'plogging': The new eco-friendly workout trend
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