A new study has proven what dedicated mall walkers have known all along: Walking is really good for you.
According to research published in September, those who are between ages 40 to 79 were 50% less likely to develop dementia within seven years if they took 9,826 steps per day. That percentage increased to 57% if walkers upped their pace to over 40 steps a minute. And good news for those who walk approximately 3,800 steps a day—they're still lowering their risk by 25%.
In addition to helping fight mental decline and other bodily ailments, walking is also an outlet for connection and community, as discovered with the recent formation of Hot Girls Walk GR (HGWGR), a group formed by childhood friends Maria Hamell and Kate Toporski. HGWGR—which seeks to connect women and non-binary folks of any age, ability, body type, background, sexuality and race together in a safe and inclusive environment—organizes group walks throughout the community which have attracted 80 or more walkers per gathering, on average.
Many friendships have formed as a result of the group's formation, and HGWGR has also partnered with several local groups and businesses, widening the opportunity for personal and professional relationships to form even further.
You may be wondering: What is a "hot girl walk," anyway? The trend, which gained in popularity thanks to TikTok, isn't about looks. Rather, it's all about a feeling. Hamell and Toporski say a hot girl walk is an opportunity to focus on yourself, move your body intentionally, zero in on your goals and embrace all of the hot girl energy you undoubtedly exude.
"People are in awe (and are so excited) when they see such a large group of us walking through our local parks and trails," Hamell and Toporski explain. "It's amazing to reclaim space in light of recent events that have incited violence against women. We are so strong, and even stronger together."
Like many, Hamell personally found her appreciation for walking during the pandemic.
"I found that walking helped my physical and psychological well-being tremendously," said Hamell, who lives with chronic pelvic pain. "Walking helps strengthen and stretch out my inflamed muscles. Including one to two walks into my busy schedule combats my pain and helps clear my mind from my current worries."
Toporski initially didn't find walking to be a "worthy workout." However, after running her first marathon and then finding herself in a rough patch (and off her feet) after an accident last year, walking ended up being her gateway back into movement, socialization and calmness.
"I used to have a different mindset surrounding walking as an exercise, but it has become so clear to me that walking is healthy, low impact, and amazing for mental and physical health," Toporski said. "Walking isn't weak, so I've leaned into making it a more important part of my physical and mental wellness routines."
Remember: If you don't have access to a treadmill or an accessible outdoor walking space, consider venturing to a classic walking spot ... the mall! (Which is also often a stop on most public transport routes.)
Learn about upcoming HGWGR walks—even during the colder months—by following @hotgirlswalkgr on Instagram or joining the Hot Girls Walk GR Social Page on Facebook.
Cold Weather Walking Tips
Courtesy of Cari Draft, Owner and Founder, EcoTrek Fitness
- Dress in light, moisture-wicking layers (with zippers for easy removal).
- Invest in good gloves/mittens, moisture-wicking socks, a hat/ear bands and a neck gaiter.
- Don't stretch cold muscles! Instead, do functional movements that mimic walking for three to five minutes (ankle rotations, leg swings, marching in place, gently swinging your arms).
- Keep your head up and stay alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Be mindful of your posture, keeping your shoulders down and back.
- Engage your core and swing your arms with your stride, stepping from heel to toe.
- Rest and hydrate, even if you don't feel thirsty.
- Cool down with stretches or basic yoga moves like upward- and downward-facing dog.
- Eat nutrient-rich food to allow your muscle tissue to repair and get stronger.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor of West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Dec '22/Jan '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.