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What Is The Silent Walking Trend? The Legit Mental + Physical Benefits

Shock: The latest TikTok fitness trend might actually be a force for good.

TikTok has become one of the most influential social media platforms for creating and spreading viral trends.

Although many fitness trends you find on TikTok are not rooted in science and frankly can be downright unsafe, the silent walking trend is one of the better physical and mental health trends that has recently taken over this popular social media site like wildfire.

In this guide, we will discuss what silent walking is, its physical and mental health benefits, and tips for how to do silent walking in nature to maximize the benefits of this wellness trend.

We will cover: 

Let’s dive in! 

A person with their finger up to their lips, shushing someone.

What Is Silent Walking?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the wellness trend known as the “hot girl walk“ became all the rage, particularly amongst the Gen Z crowd.

Young women (and men) would post reels of themselves popping in their AirPods and going for a walk around New York City or their local stomping grounds, often sharing personal anecdotes like what music and podcasts they listened to and other fitness tips they used to up their hot girl walk game.

Although the fervor surrounding the “hot girl walk“ has somewhat died down, plenty of people established a routine of getting out there and walking during the pandemic that has lasted ever since, demonstrating that not all TikTok wellness trends are bad.

After all, while there is nothing inherently “hot girl“ about a “hot girl walk,“ walking provides numerous physical and mental health benefits.

However, while there isn’t anything inherently wrong with popping in your AirPods, queuing up your favorite podcasts on your device, and going for a walk on the treadmill or outside, the new trend on TikTok for walking workouts ditches your device and earbuds altogether.

Aptly known as silent walking, the silent walking trend requires that you disconnect from your phone on walks and just connect with your body, nature, and your own thoughts.

A person walking thorough the woods, alone.

What Started the Silent Walking Trend?

The silent walking trend began back in September 2023, when creator Mady Maio, a Gen Z TikTok influencer and podcast host, first posted about silent walking.1TikTok – Make Your Day. (n.d.). Www.tiktok.com. Retrieved January 9, 2024, from https://www.tiktok.com/@madymaio

‌According to influencer Mady Maio’s post, she began practicing silent walking after she received advice from her nutritionist to walk for 30 minutes a day “instead of doing insane cardio like I used to.”2TikTok – Make Your Day. (n.d.). Www.tiktok.com. Retrieved January 9, 2024, from https://www.tiktok.com/@madymaio/video/7243831425072434474

‌The suggestion from her nutritionist to do low-intensity cardio like walking for exercise was reportedly followed by a challenge from Maio’s boyfriend not to listen to a podcast, music, or anything else while she did her walks.

Mady Maio claimed that she was experiencing powerful mental health benefits of disconnecting from her device on walks and started recommending the practice of silent walking to others.

A person walking on a path, alone.

Even though Mady Maio is credited as the creator of silent walking and perhaps even the influencer who coined the term “silent walking,“ the practice of walking without AirPods or any sort of media has existed for as long as humans have been alive. 

In fact, of course, it has only been in the past couple of decades that we have even had the option of using an audio device for workouts, with the initial advent of the Sony Walkman.

Moreover, in many regards, silent walking is just another way to describe walking meditation, which is a subset of mindfulness meditation that involves walking in nature or walking outdoors as you reflect inward rather than meditating on a cushion or performing some other type of stillness meditation.

Still, if it takes a TikTok trend to encourage younger generations to unplug from their devices for a good walk, there’s nothing wrong with embracing the silent walking trend.

In this way, the silent walking trend can be seen as a resurgence of a wellness practice that has been around for thousands of years, repackaged in a Gen Z-friendly format.

A person walking thorough the woods, alone.

How Do You Practice Silent Walking?

There’s nothing complicated about how to practice silent walking.

All you do is go for a walk without any music, podcasts, phone calls, or AirPods in your ears. You keep your device at home or tucked away in your pocket for the duration of your walk and simply connect with nature.

To that end, it is recommended that you do silent walking fitness walks in nature or at least outside rather than on the treadmill to capitalize on the mental health benefits of exercising outdoors and reconnecting with nature. 

If you live in a city, try to find a park or quiet area with plenty of trees and natural vegetation, and if you have access to a forest for hiking trails, try to do your silent walking workouts in unadulterated natural environments.

A person walking on a trail.

What Are the Benefits of Silent Walking?

The physical and mental health benefits of silent walking come not only from the regular physical and mental health benefits of walking for exercise but also from disconnecting from technology and the constant socializing and screen time that most of us are accustomed to.

Connecting with nature can reduce stress3Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., Hahn, K. S., Daily, G. C., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(28), 8567–8572. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1510459112 and even improve sleep.4Jimenez, M. P., DeVille, N. V., Elliott, E. G., Schiff, J. E., Wilt, G. E., Hart, J. E., & James, P. (2021). Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: a Review of the Evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health18(9), 4790. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094790

‌For this reason, one of the potential mental health benefits of silent walking is reducing anxiety and insomnia.5Barrett, B., Harden, C. M., Brown, R. L., Coe, C. L., & Irwin, M. R. (2020). Mindfulness meditation and exercise both improve sleep quality: Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial of community dwelling adults. Sleep Health. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2020.04.003

‌We are constantly bombarded with incoming emails, phone notifications, news stories, and other pressures from our busy lives and all of the technology at our fingertips. 

Without your device in hand, you don’t have to worry about the emails piling into your inbox or some of the more grave and stressful situations going on in the world while your walk.

Furthermore, tuning into your inner thoughts can help bring you into a flow state because it allows your brain to have fewer stimuli so that you can focus on your inner thoughts and feelings in the present moment.

A person walking thorough the woods, alone.

Studies also show that exercising outdoors provides additional mental health benefits over exercising indoors, which is why it is recommended that you practice silent walking in nature.6Gladwell, V. F., Brown, D. K., Wood, C., Sandercock, G. R., & Barton, J. L. (2013). The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extreme Physiology & Medicine2(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/2046-7648-2-3

‌One final thing to remember is that silent walking doesn’t have to be your everyday practice.

When you are trying to do a higher-intensity cardio walk, you might benefit from listening to upbeat music, as studies show that listening to music during exercise can decrease the rate of perceived exertion so that your workouts feel easier.7Sports. (2019). Mdpi.com. https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sports

‌However, trying to unplug from your device—at least occasionally—for a silent walk can be a great way to decrease stress and help promote a flow state for your mind and body.8Daniyal, M., Javaid, S. F., Hassan, A., & Khan, M. A. B. (2022). The Relationship between Cellphone Usage on the Physical and Mental Wellbeing of University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(15), 9352. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159352

For a long list of benefits for working out outdoors, check out:

References

  • 1
    TikTok – Make Your Day. (n.d.). Www.tiktok.com. Retrieved January 9, 2024, from https://www.tiktok.com/@madymaio
  • 2
    TikTok – Make Your Day. (n.d.). Www.tiktok.com. Retrieved January 9, 2024, from https://www.tiktok.com/@madymaio/video/7243831425072434474
  • 3
    Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., Hahn, K. S., Daily, G. C., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(28), 8567–8572. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1510459112
  • 4
    Jimenez, M. P., DeVille, N. V., Elliott, E. G., Schiff, J. E., Wilt, G. E., Hart, J. E., & James, P. (2021). Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: a Review of the Evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health18(9), 4790. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094790
  • 5
    Barrett, B., Harden, C. M., Brown, R. L., Coe, C. L., & Irwin, M. R. (2020). Mindfulness meditation and exercise both improve sleep quality: Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial of community dwelling adults. Sleep Health. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2020.04.003
  • 6
    Gladwell, V. F., Brown, D. K., Wood, C., Sandercock, G. R., & Barton, J. L. (2013). The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extreme Physiology & Medicine2(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/2046-7648-2-3
  • 7
    Sports. (2019). Mdpi.com. https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sports
  • 8
    Daniyal, M., Javaid, S. F., Hassan, A., & Khan, M. A. B. (2022). The Relationship between Cellphone Usage on the Physical and Mental Wellbeing of University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(15), 9352. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159352
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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