The latest exercise craze on TikTok doesn’t require any exorbitantly priced equipment, but it does require a healthy dose of self-confidence.
This spring, seemingly everyone on the app ― or at least the youths ― has been talking about “Hot Girl Walks.”
Coined by Mia Lind while taking her daily stroll around the neighborhood during the pandemic, taking a Hot Girl Walk is as much about fitness as it is about cultivating a stronger sense of self-esteem.
“In lockdown, I was looking for a type of exercise that I didn’t dread to do and realized the meditative element that comes with going on a long walk,” Lind, an undergrad communications major at the University of Southern California, told HuffPost.
“I also felt that walking had a strong stigma as not being a valid form of exercise so I gave ‘walking’ some rebranding as a Hot Girl Walk,” she said.
In her viral TikTok video, the 22-year-old outlines the three basic tenets of the Hot Girl Walk. On your walk, you should primarily think about three things:
What you’re grateful for
How hot you are (naturally, it’s not called a Hot Girl Walk for nothing)
Your goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them
The idea is to get your daily exercise in while ruminating on all you’ve accomplished, all you’re teeing yourself up to accomplish, and, yes, how hot you are.
If negative thoughts crop up during your walk, Lind suggests queuing up a playlist with tracks that are Hot Girl Walk-minded and focusing on the lyrics. (Think: Beyonce’s Coachella set or something anthem-y like “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill.)
In her TikTok video, Lind does mention that she lost some weight by taking her extended walks ― for her, each walk is about four miles ― but she stresses that weight loss is not the intended goal of the Hot Girl Walk.
“There are several health benefits I could reference of walking, weight loss included, but the mental benefits and self-care aspect is the biggest change, or growth I have seen from the HGW,” she told HuffPost.
Moving your body in any way, including walking, is a research-backed way to release endorphins, a set of feel-good chemicals that dull pain receptors in the brain, reduce stress and leave you with a euphoric feeling. Even just a short 30-minute walk is enough to boost the mood of someone suffering from major depressive disorder, according to a 2005 study published in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Though walking isn’t as high-intensity as running, a 2013 study found that walkers who put in the same mileage as runners still get comparable reductions in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s a great midday jolt to your creativity, too. Research from Stanford University has shown that creativity gets a boost while walking and shortly afterward. (Even better if you can take your walk in a nature preserve or in a quiet, tree-lined spot; researchers have also found that walking around in nature can lift your mood and help you stop dwelling on negative thoughts.)
“Not only has walking been shown to reduce depression symptoms and increase your creativity, but taking time for yourself to practice gratitude is the ultimate form of self-care and self-love,” said Vanessa Liu, an online fitness trainer and nutritionist and a fan of the Hot Girl Walk.
“I love [Lind’s] advice in another video that you can ‘take that energy and carry it with you through the whole day,’” Liu said. “It’s a good reminder to take control of your life and can choose to live your best life despite your circumstances.”
Outside the mental reset, there’s obvious physical perks, too. Though walking isn’t as high-intensity as running, a 2013 study found that walkers who put in the same mileage as runners still get comparable reductions in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. (Yes, it may take a little longer to cover the same distance if you’re walking, but walking has less impact on the knees, hips and lower back, which may lead to greater adherence to actually exercising.)
If you’re looking to get your Hot Girl Walk on, below fitness experts and mental health practitioners who specialize in body image share how to get the most out of your walks.
Mind your posture.
Walk like the hot person you know you are by making sure your posture is just-so: Chest upright, with your head held high, looking forward into the distance. You may want to slightly bend your elbows while swinging your arms.
“Stand tall while walking and pack your shoulders back and down; you’re aligning your mental world optimally so align your skeleton as well,” said Bianca Russo, a certified personal trainer and a body acceptance advocate.
Improved posture will reduce potential aches and pains during and after the walk, Russo said.
“Remember that making even minor changes in how you hold yourself up may feel awkward or tiring at first, but in time these adjustments are investments for your longevity,” she explained.
Walk without a time or distance requirement.
Lind walks two miles to her destination and two miles back, but tailor your walk to you and what is capable for your body on any one day, said Julia Parzyck, an disorder recovery coach and a body-acceptance influencer.
“If four miles at a certain pace doesn’t feel good for your body, don’t do it,” she said. “Your body knows best and even if it’s a five-minute walk around the block or just standing outside for some fresh air, that is enough.”
Don’t beat yourself up yourself if you can’t sustain positive thoughts the whole time. (Photo: Halfpoint Images via Getty Images)
Ditch the “hot” part, if that feels better to you.
Parzyck goes on multiple walks weekly and while she agrees that walking is wonderful for your mental health, she doesn’t love the “Hot Girl” aspect of this trend.
“It doesn’t feel inclusive and it’s not accessible to everyone,” she said. “Not everyone has the ability to get outdoors and go for walks, and if you don’t have that ability, it doesn’t mean you’re not hot.”
Jess Sprengle, a licensed professional therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders, also feels a little uncomfortable about the “hot” part of the packaging.
“I like the idea of targeted thoughts while engaging in health-promoting activity, but it’s hard to know if this is actually health-promoting activity or just ... diet culture-promoting activity with a sprinkle of toxic positivity thrown in, especially given the before and after pic in the TikTok video,” she said.
Lind does stress that the goal is not weight loss. That said, Sprengle is right to point out that TikTok in general has a problem with body positive content.
Put on music that moves you, not a podcast.
In her TikTok videos, Lind challenges people to walk without their earbuds. If you do want some background noise, she encourages you to listen to mood-boosting music rather than something more distracting like a podcast. (Megan Thee Stallionis going to get you moving more than the dulcet tones of Michael Barbaro on “The Daily.” Sorry to that man.)
Liu thinks music is preferable, too.
“People have a tendency to synchronize their movements with music,” she said. “Think about how your toe starts tapping or your head starts bobbing when you hear a catchy beat.”
Listening to music helps you keep up the pace of your walk, the trainer said, plus, “a playlist with feel-good music can be inspiring and help you articulate or crystallize your goals and what you’re grateful for and how hot you are.”
“Simply by choosing a walking route with hills will increase your intensity as well as walking faster and longer,” said Kyla Beland, a health and wellness YouTuber. (Photo: Igor Alecsander via Getty Images)
Incorporate mindfulness into your walk.
“There are various techniques that can help you stay present,” she said. “Notice the colors, temperature, and smells around you. Shift attention to the air on your skin, the feeling of the ground beneath your feet, and the physical sensations happening inside of you.”
Pay attention, on purpose, to the rhythms, melody, and harmonies of the songs on your playlist.
“When distracted, simply observe your breath entering and exiting your lungs to anchor back into the present moment,” she added.
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t sustain positive thoughts the whole time.
If you notice you’re having trouble thinking positive thoughts, be compassionate with yourself, DeCaro said. Avoiding what’s floating into your head isn’t likely to quell those nagging thoughts.
“The paradox of avoidance is that it can often strengthen the very thing we’re trying to avoid,” she said. “If drowning out your thoughts isn’t working for you, try to simply notice your thoughts without judgment and remind yourself that our thoughts aren’t facts. Notice your breath moving in and out of your lungs or tap into your five senses.”
And if walking for a long stretch isn’t working for you on any one day, cut yourself some slack there, too.
“Be sure to tune into and honor your body’s cues rather than relying on a set of external rules,” DeCaro said. “There will likely be days when choosing to rest at home or taking a much shorter walk will be what your mind and body truly needs.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.