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Mall Walking

By: Inter Valley Health Plan





Mall walking has likely been around since the inception of the first enclosed shopping mall. This aerobic exercise continues to gain in popularity with the over-50 exercise crowd as well as with the Baby Boomers - more and more of whom are reaching their retirement years every day.

It’s an easy way to get in a workout while meeting new people. Many malls designate a senior exercise chair to coordinate walking clubs with an emphasis on elderly exercise. Senior exercise videos are often shown to these groups at a number of malls throughout the country. The videos cover basic stretching and warm-up exercises that can be used before, during and after a walking workout. They also give tips on walking techniques to help avoid injuries while building the body’s cardiovascular and muscular systems.

Many of these elderly exercise clubs coordinate events often sponsored by health care providers that bring in caregivers to give club members free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. While this is no substitute for a regular doctor visit, these screenings are a good opportunity to reach an elderly population that might not normally visit a doctor for regular checkups. Other senior exercise groups sponsor programs where seniors can work toward goals of walking a certain number of miles each week or for set length of time each day. Using goal-oriented programs like these has been proven to increase interest in exercising, therefore increasing the positive results of the physical activity. Many malls will put up maps for their senior exercisers and others, highlighting different walking routes and the trip distances for each route. The maps give them a real gauge of what they are achieving, another tool toward reinforcing potential for further physical achievement.

While stereotypically seen as exercise for women over 50, the number of men mall walkers is steadily increasing as mall walking popularity continues to grow. Mall walkers’ affinity toward early morning treks has been an earmark of the phenomenon that has endured for years. And the numbers continue to grow as the senior population maintains its steady assent. Mall businesses are acutely aware of the growing trend, with many, especially restaurants and coffee shops, opening for business earlier than normal to accommodate the influx of exercising seniors.

This reaction to the early morning elderly exercisers has caused a continuation of activity after the walk. Socializing with others is often the best exercise for any senior. Whether it is a cup of coffee, breakfast or some early morning shopping, many over-50 exercisers find the social interaction as beneficial as the cardio.

Fitness clubs have also noticed the mall walking craze, many bringing senior exercise equipment into the malls for the elderly exercisers to use to supplement their workouts. In many cases, they will employ personal trainers to work with the seniors, showing them how to work with the machines to maintain muscle mass and build overall strength. The resistance exercise is a nice addition and something the seniors would not normally have access to being that this equipment is normally found only at expensive fitness clubs. Many seniors are on fixed incomes and access to a gym membership is often out of the question.

Safety is another area where the malls often have an advantage over other exercise options. The interior halls of the mall are almost always a flat, tiled surface. Absent are obstructions that you would find walking outside, like curbs, potholes and loose gravel. Moreover, the only traffic you will run into while you are inside the mall (barring a Blues Brothers’ high-speed chase) is foot traffic. Weather, as was mentioned briefly above, is another big safety concern and another reason why many elderly exercisers opt for a mall walk rather than walking outdoors. The winter months bring many obstacles, including the bitter cold that often grips many northern reaches. Snow and slick ice present potential hazards. Senior exercisers walking in these conditions are especially vulnerable to the cold temperature and slippery conditions. Most malls also have 24-hour security patrolling the interior and exterior of the property so there is constant surveillance and assistance on hand.

There is little doubt that seniors exercise in the form of mall walking will continue to grow in popularity. It’s fun and it’s free. The physical and mental benefits are more than enough evidence to prove that it is one of the best products to come out of shopping centers in a long time.

Article From Inter Valley Health Plan

 



 


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