Every Wednesday morning at 7:30, some friends and I lace up our running shoes and head outdoors to solve the problems of the world during our weekly walk and talk.
Here on the balmy Wet Coast of Canada, we generally walk rain or shine. Winter weather here usually means drizzly rain rather than icy snow, but on those very rare days when the weather is ugly (either too cold in winter or too hot in summer), we are glad to join the Mall Walkers at one of our local indoor shopping centres. The mall opens its main doors at 7:30 a.m. for mall walkers, who have two whole hours to walk indoors before the shops open for business. Rain or shine – and whether it’s too hot or too cold outside – we can keep up our heart-smart exercise (and global problem-solving).
Many indoor malls are now getting on the indoor walking or “mallercise” bandwagon. It’s a low-impact, simple way to exercise and practise a heart-healthy lifestyle. Mall walking participation is usually free and offers a safe, climate-controlled environment with level ground for easy walking. Our own Mall Walkers club even offers members a free monthly post-walk coffee-and-muffin event with interesting guest speakers.
Consider the gigantic Mall of America near the Minneapolis airport – which already had thousands of early morning walkers registered in its Mall Stars walking club. Then the MOA launched its Mayo Clinic Mile, a series of indoor walking routes marked by one mile, 5K or 10K route signage. You need these during those brutal Minnesota winters – or humid summer heat waves.
For those who don’t know how to walk in the mall, there’s even a paperback book called The Complete Mall Walker’s Handbook, described as a “truly reader friendly” guide to help anyone from 19 to 90 begin a program of personal exercise and fitness by walking in their local shopping mall. Its authors promise:
“The topics covered include exercise and nutrition, stretching and flexibility, getting in shape, workout wear, surprising fitness facts, charts for tracking progress, and inspiring words from veteran mall walkers.”
The Hush Puppies company even manufactures a special shoe called the Mall Walker. But it’s apparently not for us, my heart sisters: this rather boxy beige shoe is made for men only.
For people like me – who prefer supporting our smaller, neighbourhood retail shops and rarely if ever set foot inside a Big Box store or mega-shopping mall – this walk means a visit to a shopping centre that I’d otherwise never patronize. Mall administrators thus live in hope that one of these days, I might even stay after our walk and spend some money there – as many of our fellow mall walkers indeed do.
This hope also illustrates one of the inherent contradictions of mall walking as a way to stay heart-healthy and fit.
Take for example the 2008 Australian study titled Consuming Bodies: Mall Walking and the Possibilities of Consumption published in the journal, Health Sociology Review. This research, which looked at mall-walking residents of suburban Adelaide, reminds us that organized walking around big shopping centres (and their requisite fast food courts) are ironic examples of the kind of unhealthy consumption blamed for alarming obesity rates in the first place.
And indeed, how tempting is it, after completing your 10,000 steps, feeling all righteous and smug, to want to stop at Tim Hortons for a nice gooey Maple Dip to reward yourself for being such a keener? Completely defeats the purpose of mall walking in the first place . . .
So fight off that seductive urge, wannabe mall walkers, and instead of lying abed making up excuses for not going for a brisk heart-smart walk because of poor weather, get thee to thy local indoor shopping centre.
Q: Have you tried mall walking?
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