There’s no denying that consistent exercise is important to overall health. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, seniors who engage in at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate exercise, like walking, per week, obtain health benefits that include a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, less breast and colon cancers, improved mood, and a decrease in type 2 diabetes. Exercise can even delay the onset of cognitive decline and dementia, not to mention improving one’s sleep and contributing to weight loss. That’s a lot of health benefits for only a few hours per week commitment!

Regardless of where you work or live, walking can be done in a variety of locations. But as we age, we need to become more aware of situations that can place us in unsafe settings. For some of us, this can mean our own neighborhoods. Some of these barriers to walking your own neighborhood are:

  • Weather – it may be too hot or too cold.
  • Fear of injury- the sidewalks may be uneven or the terrain may be hilly.
  • Lack of available rest rooms – when walking in the neighborhood, toilets are usually not readily available.
  • Fear of safety – Seniors are more vulnerable to robbery and if there is some sort of attack, many times there are no witnesses.
  • Companionship: Unless you’re in a senior community which has already created a walking club, your walking is usually done alone.

There is a way to reduce or eliminate these hindrances to walking and find companionship as well. And it’s found at your local mall!

Why mall walk?

When we were younger, many of us thought of the mall as a social gathering place. I know I did. There we’d meet friends and socialize, listen to music, or roam the stores designing our future homes in our heads. 50+ years later, we’re back in the mall again but this time with the added benefit for our health. Here are some of the attractive motives for walking your local mall:

  • Malls provide a temperature controlled indoor environment.
  • Most of the surfaces are level which reduces the risk of injury.
  • The majority of people can walk the mall with little to no training.
  • And all you need are a pair of sneakers and can do away with the fancy exercise gear.
  • Well-lit restrooms are available for use.

The presence of other walkers, mall security and staff provide a safe environment that helps to alleviate any fear of crime.
The opportunity for companionship and support, are the foundation principles of mall walking clubs.

Mall walkers report that they experience a non-competitive atmosphere where they are typically not judged for speed or their physique. They also feel as sense of support with their fellow mall walkers.

According to the CDC, “Middle aged and older adults represent the largest segment of the population that may benefit the most from efforts to increase the number of mall walking programs in the nation.” Some prefer walking alone at the mall but for those who prefer more support and socialization, the CDC has developed a manual to assist in making your mall walking club better or to create a new club in your area. You can download a pdf of “Mall Walking: A Program Resource Guide” from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here, and walk your way to better health!


References

1. Mall Walking for Exercise: The Centers for Disease Control.
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/walking/index.htm

2. Mall Walking: Benefits and Downsides. Berkley Wellness.
http://www.berkeleywellness.com/fitness/exercise/article/perks-mall-walking