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Is Mall Walking the Coolest Exercise of the Summer?

Candice Denise Owens, a 44-year-old Baltimore resident, typically aims for 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day. However, on colder days last fall, she found herself seeking an indoor option for her daily walks. “It was too cold — but I didn’t want to stop getting my steps in,” she shares with Yahoo Life.

Turning to her local mall, Owens discovered the convenience and benefits of “mall walking,” a workout often associated with older adults. Reflecting on her initial perceptions, she admits, “I used to look at women when I was younger and I’m like, ‘Look at those little women mall walking.’ And now I get it; they’re trying to get their steps in.”

Months later, Owens continues her mall walking routine, particularly on days with inclement weather or when she’s concerned about her asthma acting up outdoors. She typically visits the mall about two or three times a month, arriving early to avoid crowds and tracking her steps using her iPhone’s fitness app.

While mall walking may not offer the same outdoor benefits like vitamin D exposure, cardiologist Dr. Mustali Dohadwala notes its significance in keeping people active and preventing a sedentary lifestyle linked to health risks. He recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week and suggests aiming for 7,000 to 10,000 steps daily.

Mall walking addresses various exercise barriers, including extreme weather, safety concerns, and lack of gym access. Additionally, malls often provide restroom facilities, security, and opportunities for social interaction and community engagement. Belza, a professor at the University of Washington, emphasizes malls as venues for safe and accessible exercise, particularly for those intimidated by other fitness options.

For those considering mall walking, Owens suggests parking farther away, going during off-peak hours, and finding a suitable walking buddy or enjoying solo walks with headphones. While malls may face challenges, such as closures and changes in retail, Belza remains optimistic about their potential resurgence as community hubs. As she highlights, “There’s still places that people need to go … [where] they feel a sense of community.”

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