The latest fitness craze to sweep across the globe has landed, and from this month people can keep fit while keeping the city clean. Editor Marissa Carruthers finds out more about plogging in Cambodia. Photography by Enric Català.

The world is full of fitness fads: spinning, high-intensity interval training, crawling classes. Now plogging is the latest craze to jump on board the health train, and it has captured the imaginations of all those health- and environmentally-conscious minds out there.

It all started in 2016, when Erik Ahlström moved from ski resort town Are in central Sweden to Stockholm. His first impression? “It looks like a dump”. As an avid environmentalist, he pledged to take the matter into his own hands and set about organising a group of joggers to hit the city armed with rubbish bags and gloves and pick up litter as they exercised.

So plogging – a play on the word “jogging” and the Swedish “plocka upp”, which means pick up – was born, and in an age where conserving the environment is becoming increasingly important it very quickly caught on. This month, plogging is set to make its debut in Phnom Penh as the fight against the waste that plagues the city and beyond steps up a gear.

“The idea came from one of my clients,” says Lorenzo Lanzafame, founder and CEO of LL Fitness and the brainchild behind the event. “I was very excited straight away because in Cambodia there is a huge problem with plastic and trash in general, and this seemed a great way to help out.”

He immediately contacted environmental group Go Green Cambodia and they set about organising Phnom Penh’s first plogging event this month.

“We all know that fitness and health is important in our lives, and the dangers surrounding pollution and waste on the environment,” says Lanzafame. “Being surrounded by all this trash isn’t the best for your health so it’s all connected.”

On May 12, three rounds of plogging will be held at various locations across the capital. Each of the three routes covers about 6km and takes about 45 minutes to complete, with the first covering Toul Tom Poung, the second BKK1 and the last route taking in Riverside.

Lanzafame stresses the event is fun and open to all – including families and those who want to take their dogs for an energetic walk – but adds plogging has its health benefits. According to fitness app Lifesum, which can track plogging activities, 30-minutes of jogging combined with collecting rubbish from the floor burns on average 288 calories, compared with 235 shedded by jogging alone.

Co-organiser Grace Smith, of Go Green Cambodia, says, “We wanted to hold the first event in the city centre because these are the places where a lot of people already go running, it’s easy for more people to join in and it’s good for visibility, so people can see what we’re doing. We want this to be the first of many.”

In true community spirit, a host of local businesses have jumped on board to offer prizes as there will be a weigh-in of garbage at the end, with the top waste collectors being rewarded for their efforts. Places have also offered to be water-fill and respite stations along the plogging routes. And participants are being encouraged to download the recently released Go Green Cambodia app, which allows users to flag up spots across the city that are dirty or need bins installing, as well as locations that are impressively clean. The app uses GPS to trace users in real time, with an unhappy face pinned on the map for untidy locations and a happy face for tidy spots. A rubbish bin can also be plotted for places where there is nowhere to throw waste.

Smith says the event has been approved by the local municipality, who will remove collected waste when it has finished. She adds, “We really encourage everyone to download the app and use it while they’re plogging. We will then collect all of this data of where bins are needed and places that need cleaning up and send it to the municipality at the end of the month. We want to drive citizen engagement and positive change.”

And in a further bid to instigate “positive change”, plogging organisers are hoping to partner with schools to help spread the message about keeping Cambodia clean and maintaining a healthy mind and body.

“We hold a lot of fitness classes outdoors now and it’s not nice to work out next to a pile of trash, families want a clean park to take their children at weekends, this is something that will benefit us all,” says Lanzafame.

More information on the routes and sponsors will be released on The Green Race Facebook page.