If you ever worked retail at a mall, you might remember catching sight of a swiftly moving pack of blue and grayed haired ladies. Dressed in flamboyant shorts-sets and extremely sensible sneakers, the cheerful squad would make determined revolutions past the food court, down the corridors towards the department stores, and back around again.
Before clocking 10,000 steps a day was even a thing, these ladies already knew that the secret to good health was a brisk walk. “It has tremendous benefits, from supporting a healthy immune system to boosting your metabolism to strengthening your joints, muscles, and bones—not to mention it’s amazing for stress relief and enjoying a little ‘me time,’” says fitness expert Denise Austin.
There’s also tons of research suggesting that a consistent walking routine may reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The diverse benefits make it one of the most effective forms of preventative healthcare.
So yes, the bustlin’ blue-haired baddies at the Coastland Center were definitely on to something.
Despite the name, the #HotGirlWalk is for everyone!
The next time you need a quick hit of serotonin and you find yourself reaching for your phone or some other digital distraction, grab a pair of comfy slip-ons and head outside.
Walking is like meditation in motion – it can calm your mind and relax your body. Fresh air, the sounds of nature, and the rhythmic steps have a soothing effect, reducing the stress hormone cortisol, and dampening anxiety.
Walking also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical that promotes a sense of pleasure, delight, and love.
"Endorphins interact with receptors in the brain and bring about feelings of well-being, increased self-esteem, increased pain tolerance, and even a sense of euphoria, often referred to as a 'runner's high,'” says Michael Lam MD, MPH, ABAAM, a physician specializing in nutrition and healthy aging. It’s like an instant antidepressant.
Walking not only makes you feel good but it makes your brain work better, too. According to a 2014 study, walking participants out-performed sedentary subjects on creative thinking assessments.
That’s because a simple stroll increases blood flow and activity in areas that control memory and creativity. Fresh perspectives and new solutions seem to flow easier when you walk, clear your head, and open your mind.
When we think of what the pinnacle of health looks like, a variety of star athletes, buff celebs, and sleek yoga influencers might come to mind. Their healthy lifestyle might include some combination of a drill sergeant masquerading as a personal trainer, a metric ton of steamed chicken breast, or hours spent twisting into a perfect pretzel.
But if you want a healthy heart, strong bones, and flexible joints, a simple, regular walking habit can go a long way in improving your physical health and quality of life – steamed meals optional.
Some of the benefits of a brisk walk include:
- 30% lower risk of cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke
- Improved vascular circulation which helps prevention of varicose veins
- Joint pain relief
- Increased bone density
- Better sleep
- A boosted immune system
- An activated metabolism that burns calories more effectively and prevents muscle loss
Starting a #HotGirlWalk Routine
Getting started can be as simple (or complicated) as finding ten minutes a day. Walking requires no special equipment – just a pair of comfortable shoes and a pleasant, safe, and hopefully scenic area in which to take a stroll.
"Not many people recognize walking as a real workout. Perhaps it's too easy, too common, too enjoyable, or too relaxing to be considered a serious form of exercise… [but] it's one of the easiest exercises you can do on a consistent basis,” explains Dr. Lam.
The Myth of 10,000 Steps
Public health experts have drilled into us the idea that we need 10,000 steps a day, a whopping five miles. But contrary to popular belief, this advice doesn’t come from science. Instead, it stems from a 1960s advertising campaign to promote a pedometer in Japan. 10K, it seems, was a nice, round memorable number.
According to a Harvard study of around 16,000 mature women, those who got at least 4,400 steps a day greatly reduced their risk of dying prematurely compared with their less active counterparts. To garner the optimal health benefits, it’s best to clock around 7500 steps, or around 3.25 miles, every day.
Shoot for 7500 steps a day to enjoy all the benefits of your #HotGirlWalk.
Pick Up the Pace – In Your Own Time
When it comes to walking speed, strive for a brisk pace that gets your heart pumping – around 3 to 5 miles per hour. This equals roughly a 20-minute mile. Studies show those who walk at this quicker cadence can gain significant boosts in longevity, extending life expectancy by 15 to 20 years compared to slower walkers.
If you’re new to brisk walking, gradually increase your speed and distance over time. “You don’t want to jump in too quickly and walk a few marathons by accident in the first few days as this puts you at risk of overuse injuries,” says Lesley Brown, senior physiotherapist at Ten Health & Fitness.
Consistency is Key
Experts suggest a target goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate-paced walking 5 days a week. Thankfully, there’s no need to carve out a huge chunk of time all at once.
"You can break that up into shorter walks across the day and get the same benefits," explains exercise physiologist Sharon Gam, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. For instance, squeeze in a brisk 10-minute morning walk, 10-minutes at lunch, and another 10-minutes in the afternoon. These little walks all add up to the 30-minute goal.
Even small changes like parking a little further away from the grocery store, taking the stairs, and a "walking meeting" instead of sitting at your desk can have a major impact over the course of the day.
Walking treadmills have become increasingly popular since the pandemic. Enthusiasts fit in a mile or two in between Zoom calls on their portable, pared-down treadmills that can easily fit under a standing desk. “They’re particularly useful during winter as they allow you to exercise from the comfort of your home, regardless of the weather outside,” Brown says. “They’re also a good option for those concerned about the safety element of walking outside in the dark or on uneven surfaces.”
"If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together."
Women’s walking groups have started popping up across the country. Some can be as informal as a group of friends catching up at the end of the day. More formally organized groups gather like-minded strangers who become friends in 7500 steps or less.
Sophie Senarath moved to Pasadena and wanted to replicate the walking group she left behind. “I didn’t really know many other women my age in the area…Even if only one person showed up or 10, it doesn’t really matter. The point is meeting people and getting out of the house and doing something that’s healthy for you and also just a positive way to have social interaction.”
After walking all those steps, give your feet a little TLC treat! Foot Spa Basin, Purifying Tea Tree Foot Soak, Big Ceramic Foot File, and Moisturizing Foot Mask with Hemp Seed Oil.