From the Hot Girl Walk to the Silly Little Walk, walking hashtags and challenges have been a staple of our TikTok feeds ever since the start of the pandemic. Remember those days when doing a lap of town was the highlight of your day? It might seem like an odd fever dream we once had, but if one pastime has survived from the age of Covid, it’s this one. And the reason is...because it works. So when you’ve been stuck in your home office too long and are starting to have lockdown flashbacks, step away from the baking tin and grab your trainers (or sexy boots, it’s up to you). We promise you’ll feel better for it.
My Stupid Walk for my Stupid Mental Health
This trend emerged on TikTok early last year, and centres around people’s lack of motivation to prioritise themselves. It’s easy to see why the hashtag #stupidwalk went viral, as its true that our mental health is rarely our highest priority amongst cost of living worries, career goals, body image and relationship worries and all the other STUFF that takes up our time. But it’s also evident that now more than ever we need to force ourselves to feel good, whether we like it or not!
The Hot Girl Walk
The term ‘Hot Girl Walk’ started appearing in our vocabulary in the deepest darkest pandemic days, when TikToker Mia Lind revealed her secret formula for how she boosted her self-esteem via a four mile daily walk. The original HGW centred heavily around mindfulness and positive thinking, as well as listening to inspirational podcasts or motivational playlists, but getting into the hot girl state of mind is done differently by everyone. The idea is basically to change your body image without changing your body. The creator of the trend emphasises the fact that the HGW isn’t about fitness or weight loss, but self-esteem and positivity. Hence why some of Mia’s tips are ‘think about what you’re grateful for’ and ‘tell yourself how hot you are’. There are some issues with the concept, for example any social media trend is likely to become a competition for who can be the ‘hottest’ girl. Which is why the hashtag often accompanies people choosing outfits and getting ready for their walk, and filming themselves and taking selfies while doing it. This added pressure to look good and be visible on social media sort of goes against the whole concept of taking some time to yourself and away from screens, but the basic idea is golden.
Treadmill Walking Workouts
One of the greatest things to come out of these walking challenges is the adoption of the treadmill walking workout. All of a sudden, the gym is accessible to people who hate the gym or are self-conscious about exercising. The internet is overflowing with how-to’s for treadmill walking sessions, and accompanying playlists (the Taylor Swift Strut may be the most appealing name for a workout ever). Plus they’re great for regular gym-goers when you just need a low-impact day or when you’re not feeling your best.
Benefits of Walking for Mental Health
Even a short walk can act as a reset in the middle of a hectic day, or as an energy booster when you’re feeling a bit stale. Any form of physical activity will increase your blood flow, so when you’re sitting at a desk all day and starting to feel that slump, a quick stroll could be all you need to re-charge your brain and inspire your next big idea.
Walking is also all about making time to prioritise your wellbeing, which goes hand in hand with other wellness activities. For example, if you get up early to go for a walk you’re more likely to make yourself a healthy breakfast rather than grabbing a croissant or sandwich on the hoof.
Even if you’re a super sociable being, or I should say ESPECIALLY if you’re a sociable being, days when you get little human interaction can be draining. So if you’re working from home and feeling isolated, or if you’re struggling to afford days and nights out with friends, meeting up for a walk can be the perfect antidote to loneliness. There’s nothing a good gossip and some fresh air can’t solve. If you’re not living near anyone you can walk with, or if your friends and families’ schedules are impossible to match up with yours, take yourself for a walk somewhere busy - you’re bound to bump into someone (or a four-legged friend) to chat to. Even if it is the barista in the local coffee shop, a little human interaction can go a long way.
Whether you’re walking for your mental or physical fitness, a walking workout can really strengthen your lower body and core, and all without going anywhere near a gym! You could even add Bala-style ankle weights or walk uphill for a chic and effortless way of toning up while barely breaking a sweat.
If nothing else, going out for a walk is basically mindfulness for people who hate mindfulness. It's an hour away from screens and to do lists, and a crucial bit of fresh air and vitamin D. Physical exercise is often praised as a treatment for depression and anxiety, without the side effects or stigma of some other methods. As a stress releasing activity, walking and other forms of physical activity can improve sleep and boost your appetite amongst other benefits.
How to Do Mental Health Walking (and stick to it)
We all start new habits with the best intentions, but we often fail to stick to them. Of course, there are days when it's just not possible, but the beauty of the MHW is that you can make it work for you. Try these tips:
Make it more enjoyable by grabbing a coffee halfway round your walk, this can give you a target location and good ‘turning’ round point if you don’t fancy an aimless wander. If money’s tight, dig out your favourite reusable cup and make your own coffee at home to take with (bonus points if your cup matches your outfit).
Roll up your walk with running an errand if you feel silly going out without a purpose.
Form habits around your walk, for example if you get an hour’s lunch break, use the first half hour for a walk and the second to eat lunch (beats scrolling through your phone!)
If you can’t get out on a walk with a friend, use it as a chance to speak to someone on the phone who makes you feel good or who you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
A 10 minute walk is better than no walk at all, so do what you can and don’t worry about doing it perfectly.
As the effectiveness of mental health walks has become more obvious, more organised group walks are taking place. Charities such as Mental Health Mates and The National Trust and local councils such as Brighton and Hove City are offering guided walks with the aim of alleviating mental health issues that are made worse by isolation. But don’t take our word for it - break out the AirPods, whack on your bumbag and get walking, hottie.