Sweden's latest fitness craze combines physical and environmental health

Plogging represents the intersection of personal and ecological health.

In 2007, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer wanted to understand the mindset of hotel cleaning staff. Specifically, she wanted to study the relationship between exercise and self-image. Maids made for a perfect test group, given they spend entire days working out, even though they might not realize how much physical energy they’re actually using. Do they consider their jobs healthy?


Eighty-four attendants from seven different hotels took part in the study. The experimental group was told “the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General's recommendations for an active lifestyle,” while the control group was not informed of this fact. After four weeks, the group primed to believe they were exercising lost weight and saw decreases in body fat, blood pressure, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. The same did not occur in the control group.

While Langer speculates that the placebo effect played a role, this mindset shift is important. Instead of treating work as drudgery, the women who shifted their understanding of their jobs experienced positive health benefits. This could have broad implications in how we treat fitness, opening up new avenues for staying healthy while engaged in seemingly un-athletic activities.

One such phenomenon is plogging. In Sweden, runners are combining exercise with environmentalism by picking up trash along the way. And it's catching on. Plogging is becoming so popular internationally that the app, Lifesum, added a tracker to its interface. 

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.