We have all seen them before, pacing the perimeter of the mall in a tight-laced pair of walking shoes. I have personally been lapped, twice, by a mall walker at Post Oak Mall in College Station, Texas. Mall walking hit a peak of popularity in the 1990s, yet is quickly coming back as a popular choice for physical activity. I am happy to see it's revival, but can mall walking be of any benefit?
Mall Walking Benefits
Well, we already know the important role of walking in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, including (but not limited to) improved blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate, physical functioning, aerobic capacity, and weight loss and control.5
Mall walking will clearly provide these same benefits. Reseach investigating mall walking, specifically, has found it can improve and/or be related to:
- Mental health in older adults9
- Walking distance, flexibility, and general fitness2
- Weight loss2
- Social interaction and support8
- Perceptions of self-value and self-care, such as striving to better oneself and experiencing life as a joy6
- New, meaningul roles and routines for retirees3
In addition, there is evidence that women walk faster when walking in the mall compared to outside on a track.4 Mall walking is generally perceived safe, accessible, sheltered from the weather, and inexpensive – thus, a great option for physical activity.
Walking Key Points
- Walking is already the most common, freely chosen physical activity by most people.
- Walking is cheap, even FREE, unless you have to buy a good pair of walking shoes (which I recommend).
- Walking at 2.5 mph is considered a 'moderate intensity' physical activity. Our goal is accumulate 150+ minutes per week.
- Walking can be easily monitored, such as with a pedometer. I suggest the Yamax Digiwalker SW-200, or for the Bluetooth generation, the FitBit Zip or One. Even iPhone 5+ apps, such as Moves and Health Mate, appear to do pretty well for steps.1
Avoid taking less 5,000 steps everyday, and limit prologned sitting bouts.
BE ACTIVE, WALK MORE:
Take 7,500 or more steps per day.
Try to get 3,000 per day at 100 steps per minute, at least 5 days per week.
** An easy way to do this, is to walk to music that is 100 beats per minute, such as 'Staying Alive' by the Bee Gees or 'I Want it that Way' by the Backstreet Boys. Here is a great database to find songs.
The Importance of Options
Susan walks outside in her neighborhood 3 days a week. However, on this particular day, it is raining and cold – what does she do?
Many of us would assume that she does not walk that day. To be honest, I would not blame her for not wanting to walk out in the cold rain. What would you do? Would you just not walk that day, or would you have other options to be physically active? The lack of back-up options is dangerous.
Research suggests that having access to multiple options for physical activity relates to actually meeting physical activity recommendations (150 minutes a week of moderate intensity).7 We need options, and mall walking is a great one!
Research supports that mall walking provides the same, numerous benefits of walking – from physical and mental health to weight control – while providing additional benefits of social engagement and support.
However, be careful about working up an appetite, and rewarding yourself with anything from the food court – Cinnabon, anyone?
- Case, M. A., Burwick, H. A., Volpp, K. G., & Patel, M. S. (2015). Accuracy of Smartphone Applications and Wearable Devices for Tracking Physical Activity Data. JAMA, 313(6), 625-626.
- Culos-Reed, S. N., Stephenson, L., Doyle-Baker, P. K., & Dickinson, J. A. (2008). Mall walking as a physical activity option: results of a pilot project. Canadian Journal on Aging, 27(01), 81-87.
- Duncan, H. H., Travis, S. S., & McAuley, W. J. (1995). The meaning of and motivation for mall walking among older adults. Activities, Adaptation, and Aging, 19(1), 37-52.
- Hangland, A., & Cimbalo, R. S. (1997). Human ethology: age and sex differences in mall walking. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 85(3), 845-846.
- Hanson, S., & Jones, A. (2015). Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
- Owens, B. B. (2007). Self-care agency, health promoting lifestyle, and satisfaction with life in postmenopausal women who mall walk. Medsurg Nursing, 16(6), 383-390.
- Parks, S. E., Housemann, R. A., & Brownson, R. C. (2003). Differential correlates of physical activity in urban and rural adults of various socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57(1), 29-35.
- Schacht, S. P., & Unnithan, N. P. (1991). Mall walking and urban sociability. Sociological Spectrum, 11(4), 351-367.
- Travis, S. S., Duncan, H. H., & McAuley, W. J. (1996). Mall walking. An effective mental health intervention for older adults. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 34(8), 36-38.
- Tudor-Locke, C., & Schuna Jr, J. M. (2012). Steps to preventing type 2 diabetes: exercise, walk more, or sit less?. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 3:142.