It's no secret that millions of people keep fit by walking. They walk daily regardless of freezing temperatures, rain, sleet or snow…and they have fun while doing it. How? They simply head for the local shopping mall!
Fitness experts agree—walking is a great form of exercise. It's easy on the joints, strengthens the heart, increases energy and burns fat. Plus, it doesn't require special equipment or training, it's free and you can do it anytime of the year, particularly if you walk in a shopping mall.
"I tried running and aerobics," explains Sara Donovan, founder and president of WalkSport America—a national fitness program based on mall walking.
"Walking gave me the results I wanted. I now walk for at least 20 minutes a day, and I'm living a healthy lifestyle."
With mall walking, there's no worrying about weather, traffic or security. Most malls open early for walkers, and many have organized programs that include free health seminars and blood pressure tests, fitness demonstrations and store discounts.
Take the First Step
If making a few daily laps around your shopping center sounds fun, see your doctor and get his or her input. Then, find out if your favorite mall has special hours for walkers, and get going!
Sara suggests beginning with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up walk. "After that, it's time for a few stretches," says the St. Paul, Minnesota walker. "Stretch your calves, thighs and hips and then continue your walk.
"If you're new to mall walking, begin slowly and concentrate on your posture," she recommends. "Focus on keeping your chin level. Look forward, not down. Your back should be straight and your arms bent at 90° angles, pumping close to your side."
Once your posture is set and you're comfortable with your routine, it's time to pick up the pace. To get the most out of your walk, maintain an increased heart rate for at least 20 minutes. If walking faster is too difficult, try walking for a longer amount of time instead.
The more you walk, the quicker your pace will become. But do not walk so fast as to be obtrusive to other mall walkers. "If you're walking during shopping hours, it's also important to show your appreciation to mall management by yielding the right-of-way to shoppers," adds Sara.
After accomplishing your walking goal for the day, cool down. Decrease your pace until your heart rate has returned to normal, then stretch again.
"No matter how you motivate yourself, keep walking," Sara encourages. "Stick with it and you'll be amazed by the results."