While the idea of having a “hot girl summer” with a “hot girl walk” is fun to think about, it’s more beneficial than you may realize. It’s not just for girls, either, but people of any gender. Yup, walking is a great exercise despite the fact it’s not super intense, and many experts are huge fans.
“Walking is one of the most consistently underrated forms of exercise out there,” says Rachel Trotta, a certified personal trainer. Contrary to popular understanding, you don’t have to completely beat yourself up to get in a good workout.
4 reasons why experts love the hot girl walk
1. It benefits your brain and your body
Walking can improve both your mental and physical health in various facets. “It improves everything from insulin sensitivity to mental health to exercise recovery,” Trotta says. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can improve your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your balance, strengthen your immune system, and much more.
As far as mental health goes, getting outside for your walk is best, if possible. “Outside of the obvious mental health benefits that exercise can provide, such as reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, getting outside can also have a positive impact on sleep, memory, planning, and confidence,” says CJ Bathgate, PhD, licensed psychologist at National Jewish Health.
She explains the sunlight regulates our circadian rhythm, or internal “body clock,” that makes us feel sleepy and awake. It also tells our body to reduce melatonin production, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy, so a walk in the morning can help you wake up.
Walks at other times of the day are helpful, too. “Walking early in the day can provide an energy boost, walking in the afternoon can be a great ‘reset’ from something that happened earlier or to break up the day, and walking in the evening can help wind things down, especially when listening to music or a podcast,” Dr. Bathgate says. And adding in the goal-setting/gratefulness/accomplishment-brainstorming can help you plan and achieve your goals, she adds. It’s meditative.
Scientifically speaking, walking produces feel-good chemicals in your brain. “Walking is one of the best ways to reduce stress because it releases endorphins,” says Laurie Groh, MS, LPC, SAS, mental health therapist and co-owner of Shoreside Therapies. “This is a natural painkiller.”
2. It’s more accessible than other forms of exercise
If you’re an on-again, off-again exerciser like me who sometimes struggles with motivation (especially in this terrible heat), you know the struggle. The thought of driving to the gym and working out in front of other people or exhausting yourself by trying to run and lift weights is simply Not It.
But the idea of just walking outside, listening to good music? It’s a little easier to get on board with that—and Trotta agrees. “TikTok’s current hot girl walk trend is giving people the right encouragement to get moving without setting unrealistically high standards for what constitutes a workout,” she says.
For people who have chronic pain or chronic illness, walking can be an easier type of exercise to incorporate (if they want to), as well. A 2017 study in Musculoskeletal Science and Practice says walking can even be recommended to reduce low-back pain for some people. Walking can also help people who live with IBS.
3. It’s a generally healthy way to practice self-care
While we all need more coping skills than fair exercising, and while exercising may not be the right option for someone who’s dealt with an exercise addiction, for example, it’s typically a positive self-care tool.
“Having some separation from work and doing something enjoyable is a great way to engage in self-care, and might even produce ‘a-ha!’ moments, where solutions to otherwise tricky situations naturally pop up because we’re taking ourselves out of being in crisis and into a more relaxed state without judgment,” Dr. Bathgate explains.
4. It includes several good habits you can do consistently
Trotta also loves how the hot girl walk combines multiple healthy habits. “I think the genius of the hot girl walk trend is that it gives exercisers something to focus on, like upbeat music and positive thinking about your goals,” she says. “This uses the strategy of ‘habit pairing’ or even ‘habit stacking’—instead of seeing exercise as something that is done out of context, the hot girl walk concept integrates exercise into an accessible activity and a pleasant headspace.” This, she explains, tends to promote consistency.
How to make hot girl walks your own
If the idea of four miles (which is about an hour or more) of exercise sounds like too much to you—and hey, we definitely get it—that’s okay, too! Shorter walks still serve you well.
“I recommend that my own clients try to walk for 30 minutes a day,” Trotta says. Depending on your schedule, physical ability, et cetera, you may be able to do this more consistently (and enjoy it), which is ultimately most important. (Side note: These stretches can help if you’re feeling body aches from extra exercise.)
You’re also free to do or think about whatever you wish during that period. Trotta mentions a few ideas, such as listening to a podcast or audiobook, calling a friend, and watching Netflix or YouTube if you’re on a treadmill. “The key is that you find it enjoyable and it makes you want to walk more often!” she says.
Groh also believes in walking daily, if possible, to help create the habit and reap the benefits. But remember, there’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps to get there. “You can start with a goal of just walking for a few minutes, or if you’re struggling with that, your goal can be putting your shoes on,” she says.
She’s seen improvement in her own life from going on hot girl walks. “I walk every single day and listen to a book, and I’ve noticed a huge difference in the last two years, especially with the pandemic [closing] us in,” she shares. “I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk.”