Question: With the cold weather, I don’t get out to take my regular walks and I don’t want to join a gym. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: Sure do. How about going to the local mall and walk? It’s safe, warm, parking isn’t a hassle and you get to meet interesting people. If you are more of a loner, you don’t have to mingle…just walk. “Mall Walkers” usually being their trek in the morning when the mall doors open, which can be as easily as 7:00am to 10:00am. Most malls offer informal programs: there is no club to join or membership fees and they are very happy to accommodate walkers. On most mornings at any local mall, you’ll see between thirty and fifty walkers, most of whom are either older or mothers with babies in strollers lending a nice inter-generational touch. If you’re looking for reasons to convince yourself that “mall walking” is your ticket to year-round good health, here is my top ten list:
- Walking is an excellent form of exercise that benefits your entire cardiovascular system, which in turn keeps your heart and brain healthy. It also strengthens muscles and bones.
- A morning walk sets your metabolism in good stead for the rest of the day, which will help you keep your weight in check. It is also an effective way to reduce weight.
- The mall offers a “no excuse” environment to keep up with a regular exercise of at least four to six times a week is a key ingredient to staying fit. If the weather is too cold, if it is raining or if it’s roasting outside-the climate inside of the mall is just fine.
- Staying socially active prevents all kinds of health problems and even Alzheimer’s. After walking, most mall walkers enjoy a cup of coffee and a light breakfast in the Food Court, while they read the paper and talk with fellow walkers. Friendships evolve and there’s nothing like a baby’s smile or touch offered by “stroller walking” mothers.
- Malls often offer free health screenings and healthy lifestyle seminars in partnership with local hospitals. Some offer volunteer opportunities in staging community events. The only gear you need is good walking shoes, which are definitely worth the investment, especially if you’ll be walking in concrete. Other than the shoes and a water bottle, you’re good to go.
- Mall scenery can ward off exercise boredom. Every month there will be a new theme for decorating the mall and store window displays. Sunlight shines through skylights while plants, flowers and water falls are located all along your walk. And, there’s nothing like the age-old past time of “people watching” at the mall.
- If you’d like to make more competitive, get a pedometer that tracks your steps so you can add up the miles, or get a watch that does the same and also allows you to time yourself between stores or certain landmarks in the mall. You can pick up the pace by going up stairs, ramps, and escalators.
- Mall walking can be fun. Create your own mental games, like playing the Alphabet Game used to keep kids active in long car rides (look for words that begin with each letter of the alphabet), or play “I Spy” with a walking buddy. Use your time to think creatively or positively like how you might want to re-decorate a room in your home, plan a vacation, design your summer garden, start a new hobby, track down and talk to an old friend, do something fun with the grand kids or recall your favorite vacation. Don’t use your time to make a Things To Do List that will quickly zap all the mental energy you’re building up from your walk.
- Okay, there are a couple of downsides: getting past the irresistible “who cares about calories” aroma of fresh baked Cinnabons, and the sales. Pack light on the cash and credit cards a=to prevent impulse buying and get your new found friends to hold you back from those sweet attacks and buy a nutritious power bar instead.
Information provided by Dr. Linda Rhodes, Finding Your Way, 250 Real Life Questions and Commonsense Answers http://lindarhodescaregiving.com/index.htm