Hippocrates, the father of medicine, probably got it right when he said, ‘If you are in a bad mood, take a walk. If you are still in a bad mood, take another walk.’ What he wouldn’t have expected was that people in the 21st century would give walking a glow up by adding their own little tweaks to make it interesting and—because we live our lives on social media—viral.
In recent years, especially during the pandemic when gyms were shut, most people found recourse in walking. The simple act of stepping out of home to catch some fresh air brought major relief to lives in limbo. And then, somewhere along the way, people got creative with the exercise.
In 2020, University of South California student Mia Lind created the Hot Girl Walk®, to quote the official website, www.hotgirlwalk.com, “as a way to deal with the negative impacts of isolation”. Lind went on four -mile-long walks to ‘confront her negative self-talk and focus on positive, aspirational thoughts and ideas’. Lind’s spin to walking led her to experience benefits like increased confidence and happiness. Then, in 2021, encouraged by family and friends, she launched the now-trademarked walking style with a video on TikTok that explained the idea. Today, that video has racked up more than 3 million views, spawned a new hashtag: #hotgirlwalk, and become a movement that encourages participants to dress up in their coolest athleisure wear and walk like they own the world, while listening to empowering affirmations or music.
Viral walking trends
The rules of Hot Girl Walk® are very simple. To quote Lind, it requires you to go on a 4 mile (6km) walk where you focus on “things you are grateful for, your goals and how you are going to achieve them, and how HOT you are”. The objective of this walk is less about weight loss and more about introspecting and reflecting to gain confidence. This year, another walking trend that has notched up followers and views on TikTok is the Weird Walk. Created by TikTok user @leuvenzoekt, the goal of Weird Walk is to go on a long walk until you find something weird or odd along your route.
Besides helping you meet your 10,000 steps, this walking trend allows you to engage with your surroundings, thereby grounding you in the present. The element of fun in finding something weird or unusual, whether a poster, graffiti, a shop or a house, is just the icing. Since she launched the video in January, @leuvenzoekt’s video has earned over 5, 82,000 views. These are but two of the walking trends that have blown up. There are others like the Fugly Hag Stroll, Silly Little Walk and Analogue Walk that are just as unique and fun to try.
The joy of lollygag-walking
Padmaja Nagarur, co-founder of online art gallery, Artflute, loves walking. Right from her teen years when she’d walk to release angst and figure herself out, Nagarur has had a longstanding relationship with the activity. “My relationship with walking has changed over the years. If I practiced it to let off steam as a teenager, as an adult, I have done it for the sake of exercising and getting my 10,000 steps in. But I have found the task of walking to meet a fitness goal or to lose weight rather traumatizing. Which is why, now, I engage in something called the lollygag-walk. I find it thoroughly enjoyable,” says Nagarur.
An extension of the term ‘lollygagging’, which means to spend time idling or dawdling, Nagarur goes on walks where she wanders around without any specific goals in mind. “On weekends, I go to Cubbon Park (in Bengaluru) and aimlessly take turns around the park, walking to different spaces (while listening to) my music. When I go on holidays, I explore places on foot with no specific destination in mind. What I most love doing while going on these walks is watching trees and people,” Nagarur says. Sport and performance psychologist Dr Shree Advani has a slightly different view about walking. He is disciplined about getting his daily quota of 10,000 steps, by walking around his apartment complex premises in Bengaluru. “I aim at that target every day,” he says.
As it turns out, there is something special about walking 10,000 steps a day. According to JAMA Neurology, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, walking about 10,000 steps a day was linked to less cardiovascular disease, dementia and 13 types of cancer. In addition to aiding in blood circulation and maintaining an ideal BMI, there are some unlikely benefits of walking as well.
All the benefits
A Harvard Health report from 2022 states that walking helps ease joint pain and tames a sweet tooth. Apparently, a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate. And even if you do end up eating chocolate, it will be less than what you would have eaten had you not taken the walk. Dr Pradeep Haranahalli, consultant interventional cardiologist at Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru, strongly endorses brisk walking. “Brisk walking is a moderate intensity physical activity ideal for those who’ve never exercised and are intending to make a start,” he notes. Besides immense cardiac benefits, brisk walking brings about an overall improvement in one’s health profile, a sense of well-being, and quality of life.
As a psychologist, Dr Advani recommends walking, “the gentlest form of exercise,” as an activity to boost your well-being. Walking, he explains, can take you from a stressful situation and turn a negative scenario into a positive one. Nagarur says that lollygag-walking, which she is increasingly practicing barefoot, helps her disengage from work and deadlines. “Disengaging from thinking about something consciously creates room for ideas to flow,” says Nagarur.
Advani believes that walking is also an ideal antidote to beat negative thinking. “Walking does ‘it’ for all of us, the fit and the not-so-fit ones. It makes you alert. It keeps you active and gives you control to change your environment. Walking allows you to unload and unburden. It gives us a chance to be mindful and experience every aspect of the moment, including the way we breathe.”
Walk at a pace that’s a little faster than your comfort zone.
Set the pace of your walk depending on your purpose: weight loss, physical health, mental well-being.
Be mindful of your breath while walking. Breathe diaphragmatically instead of shallow breathing.
Swing your arms when you walk. Focusing on the upper body muscles will give you a good overall exercise.
Walking backwards is twice as beneficial as normal walking. It exercises a different set of muscles.
Try and walk on different terrain to improve your strength and balance.