Looking for a workout that delivers heart-healthy benefits, gets you outdoors and is good for your community?
Welcome to plogging—and it’s lower-intensity counterpart, palking. Plogging, a combination of jogging and picking up litter, originated in Sweden (the Swedish word for “pick up” is plocka upp), and has since spread around the world. Palking is the walking version.
It’s a good workout, since you’re adding squatting (to gather trash) to running or walking. You’ll be outdoors, soaking up vitamin D and improving your mood. And you’ll be doing your part to make the world a cleaner place. By collecting a few plastic bottles, cigarette butts or food wrappers off the ground, you’ll be doing something meaningful, a big secret to happiness.
Want to give it a try? Some tips from personal trainer and plogging devotee Maggie Winzeler…
- Give yourself a goal. Whether it’s five pieces of trash or 15, having a litter quota can keep you outdoors longer and serve as a distraction from the grind of exercising.
- Work in some intervals. If you’re a runner, you can sprint to the first piece of trash, then jog to the second, sprint to the third and so on. Or walk to the first piece of trash, power walk to the second, etc. The distance of each interval will be unpredictable, which is even more challenging than set intervals of, say, 30 seconds.
- Keep your movements complex. If you’re used to walking on a level sidewalk or treadmill, you’re just traveling in a forward motion. To keep your body functioning optimally, you also need to be able to move side-to-side and rotate. So when you spot a piece of trash, step off the sidewalk or trail path and turn your body to get it. It’s even better for training your balance if you walk on uneven terrain, change directions quickly or move diagonally or sideways. Bend to pick something up (see how to do this safely below). All those movements stimulate many muscle groups and strengthen your core. Plus, they’ll keep you more agile, burn more calories and improve your balance.
- Partner up. Exercising with someone else means that you’ll do it more consistently, work out longer and burn more calories. So grab a partner (four-legged or two-legged), and palk or plog together. Or head out with the grandkids, and turn your palking expeditions into a do-good scavenger hunt.
Palk or Plog Safely
Be mindful when you pick up trash. Rounding your back and reaching forward is bad for your back and knees. Instead, squat and then reach down.
To do a proper squat: Spread your feet hip-distance apart for better balance and bend your knees as if you were sitting in a chair. (Practice this movement on a straight-back chair to get the hang of it.) Keep your hips back, don’t let your knees extend beyond your toes and use your butt muscles to go up and down.
A wide stance will give you better balance. You can also support yourself with a hand on your thigh.
Carry disposable gloves and a trash bag. To avoid picking up germs along with litter, use disposable or gardening gloves, and stash your haul in a trash bag.
Alternate sides and hands. As your trash bag gets heavier, alternate which side you carry it on so that you balance your muscles and avoid straining one side of your body. Also alternate which hand you use to pick up trash, so you’re not just reaching and bending on one side of your body.
You don’t have to pick up litter every time you exercise—unless you love doing it of course. If it starts to feel like a burden, do it once a week or every other week, or turn it into a group effort so that it’s a social event instead of a chore.