Some cities, endeavoring to bring their declining downtown areas back to life, have created the opportunity for mall walking in outdoor malls by banning cars from certain shopping streets.
These outdoor shopping malls give you the opportunity to windowshop or run errands while you walk -- without having to worry about traffic. (Be careful not to stop walking too often or for too long, however, because you'll decrease the aerobic benefits of your walks.)
Even more common, though, are enclosed shopping malls that cater to walkers by lengthening their hours. Some even let walkers in before dawn or during holidays when all the stores are closed.
Many malls now have community-sponsored walking programs. Some have collaborated with local hospitals or health organizations to establish walkers' clubs that provide awards for walking certain distances, discounts for shopping at the mall, occasional free breakfasts, and mileage logs for members.
Some malls even offer measured walking courses, so walkers can calculate precisely how far they've gone. Also available in some malls are walkers' maps, fitness seminars, health screening (for blood pressure, for instance), and special stations with instructions for stretching and calisthenic exercises.
Mall walking has many advantages. It gets you out of the house but protects you from the safety hazards, inconveniences, weather extremes, and air pollutants that you might have to struggle with if you did all your walking outdoors.
Malls tend to be conveniently located and safe. Their climates -- temperature and humidity -- tend to be controlled and kept in a comfortable range. Thus, malls play a major role in promoting all-weather fitness. They offer real protection from the possible adverse health effects of walking in extremely cold or hot weather, a concern particularly for people with heart disease.
Malls that have become popular spots for walkers offer yet another advantage. They turn walking into a sociable activity. Even if you arrive at the mall alone, you'll probably be able to meet other walkers there.
Eventually, you may have a large group of walking companions, at least some of whom will be there each time you visit the mall. This kind of peer support can provide crucial motivation to keep you walking.
Of course, the advantages are reciprocal: Walkers don't just benefit from malls; malls glean benefits from walkers. Many mall managers realize that public services such as walking programs are a good way to get people to come to the mall.
Walkers help increase mall traffic and frequently patronize mall stores. If you're interested in mall walking but can't find a mall near you that offers a program, you might try contacting a local mall manager to discuss these reciprocal benefits of setting up a program.
Learn about walking options at a gym or health club on the next page.
To learn more about walking, see: