When Brooklyn-based Eden Sword felt anxious during the start of the pandemic, she’d go for a walk. With gyms closed due to social distancing guidelines, it was a way for her to get fresh air, be in nature, and establish a routine. Two years later—with most gyms now open again—Eden still chooses long solo walks over the gym, despite having been an avid gym-goer before. “I crave my walks. I feel really great, more connected to my neighborhood, and I know how to manage my anxiety better,” she says. “It helps me digest after meals, it’s something to calm my mind, and it’s a way to bond and connect.”
Eden is not alone in making the switch from high-intensity gym workouts to low-impact walks over the past few years. Many people have discovered the feel-good affects of simply walking. In fact, so many people have done so that the internet has given the phenomenon an official name: The Hot Girl Walk. The hashtag #HotGirlWalk has been continuously trending on TikTok and currently has over 276 million views. There are videos encouraging people to go on a “hot girl walk” to lower stress and anxiety, get in shape, and even as a way to process emotions or bad news.
While going on a “hot girl walk” can be different to different individuals, the general idea is that you opt out of competitive and strenuous gym culture and instead put on an outfit you feel good in and get outside. Despite the cheeky name, the hot girl walk is gender-inclusive, with creators’ dads getting involved in the trend. There are also already “starter pack” videos on what to wear and bring on a hot girl walk. This list includes cute athletic and non-athletic apparel, including a workout dress, walking shoes, weighted bangles, sunglasses, headphones, and an Apple watch. “We’re embracing the basic and we’re ready to go,” she says at the end of the video. Some people are choosing to dress in sweats instead, with one creator proposing “Adam Sandler walks” parroting his notoriously baggy outfits so they can, “save that hot girl energy for being a feral club rat later.”
Focusing your exercise routine on walking alone is a simple one that has been around for thousands of years and definitely long before TikTok. Its had great longevity as a healthy and impactful practice. Jenna Werner, registered dietitian and owner of the Happy Strong Healthy nutrition practice in New Jersey, says walking has long been “underrated” in the fitness community, lost in the landscape of complicated and extensive training tutorials. “I love walking because most people can do it. It’s appropriate for all movement levels,” she says. “It puts less stress on the body and it also provides benefits for the heart and lungs, and overall physical and mental health.”
Werner says, like everything in the health community, you can’t issue a one-size-fits-all statement that a workout routine will be suitable for everyone, but walking (or engaging in low-intensity movement) is easier to sustain for longer periods of time and for more phases of life. It has the added benefit of being easier on joints and bones, “which makes it something that can benefit your health for years to come,” she says. More intense workouts maybe harder to maintain as physical fitness levels change and some can even impact your health negatively if you push yourself too hard and cause injury. However, Werner encourages people to stay with the exercise routines they enjoy—so if you’re still love your HIIT workouts, by all means stick with it. “When done properly and not overdone, higher intensity workouts can also be health-promoting,” she says. Jenna says that, while walking is great cardio, adding in roughly two strength workouts per week is also recommended for optimal health.
With this in mind, it’s clear that not all other forms of workouts are disappearing (nor should they), but the hot girl walk trend is validating for those who opt for low-intensity workouts alone. It’s not just okay, but very healthy, especially when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety. This stokes a much-needed conversation in a male-dominated fitness community that often includes harmful rhetoric about “getting lean” and engaging in meal plans that can encourage orthorexia. It also comes during a time when another low-intensity workout, Pilates, is having another resurgence. Just recently Kerry Washington said she hit the Pilates reformer to prep for the 2022 Met Gala.
Perfumer Samantha Miles, 27, says she’s dropped going to the gym and doing weighted workouts in favor of hot girl walks over the past couple of months. “I find it fits better with my schedule and the fresh air is great for my mental health, she says. “Not to mention it’s cheaper.” While getting outside is a natural mood booster with its own health benefits, it’s also versatile and adaptable to other feel-good element: “You can do it with friends or alone, with podcasts, books, or music, or just be silent in meditation,” says Werner. There are already many hot girl walk playlists going viral on TikTok if you need some ideas.
Just like being hot itself, the “hot girl walk” trend is more about a mindset than any set routine or aesthetic. Taking yourself out for a hot girl walk is all about enjoying low-intensity workouts without feeling the pressure to participate in high-intensity gym culture and creating a routine that you enjoy for a long time. For many people, this might look like putting on hoop earrings with your workout gear and taking a long walk with a friend. Others may enjoy the gym. The reality is that the “hottest” thing you can do for your body is to find what works for you.