By Lakiesha McGhee and Jennifer K. Morita, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Apr. 16–For years, 70-year-old Roseville resident Gene Winters got his exercise by taking daily strolls through his neighborhood.
Bad weather used to force Winters to hold off on his morning walks, but last November, he and his son Tim took to Roseville’s Galleria mall instead.
“We started walking in the mall on days that it rains,” Gene Winters said. “We walk upstairs, and then we’ll go downstairs for another lap or two. We probably walk about three miles.”
While some people say shopping is a sport, strides have been taken throughout the Sacramento region to take the game to a new level by encouraging “mall-walking” programs for health.
“We want to make sure people have the opportunity to be heart-healthy,” Citrus Heights Mayor Jeannie Bruins said recently, after completing a few laps inside Sunrise Mall and burning 51.2 calories.
Bruins was at the mall to proclaim March 15 as “Go Mall Walking” day. The observance celebrates the 20th anniversary of the city’s popular Mall Walks program, sponsored by Sunrise Mall and Mercy Heart Institute. Bruins was joined by a group of dedicated mall walkers, about 85 elementary students and comedian/actor and “mall walk coach” Jack Gallagher.
The new “Go Mall Walking” effort also highlights Sunrise Mall’s longtime role as a central gathering place – not just for shopping – but for entertainment and exercise, Bruins told the crowd. The mall has opened its doors early for mall walkers since 1986. The free program now includes 100 registered members.
Other area shopping centers have followed in Sunrise Mall’s footsteps. Arden Fair mall in Sacramento started its free “Inside Track Mall Walker” program in 2002. It now has 350 members, mall officials say. In recent years, walking programs became available at the Galleria at Roseville and Country Club Plaza mall in Sacramento. Hundreds of mall-walking programs across the nation can be found on the Internet. The Galleria at Roseville mall opens two hours before the stores so walkers can get their daily exercise.
“We look in all the store windows as we walk by and we have seen stuff, so we’ve gone back when the stores were open,” Winters said.
So what’s behind the mall-walking craze? Those who have been doing it for years say they like the idea of window shopping while improving their health and getting fit.
“What I really enjoy and love about mall walking is that the stores aren’t open,” Citrus Heights resident Laura Harter said as she participated with her granddaughter at the Sunrise Mall event. “But sometimes I cheat by bringing my wallet.”
Walking has long been identified as the No. 1 low-impact aerobic exercise, according to WalkSport America Inc., a national health and fitness company based in Tempe, Ariz. The company teamed with malls across the country in 1992 to provide accessible, safe places to walk. WalkSport America reports the health benefits of walking, combined with the social aspects of an indoor mall program, can make for an effective aerobic exercise. The fitness company recommends walking at a pace fast enough to challenge you for about 20 minutes and adding a proper warm-up and cool-down for a total 30-minute aerobic workout.
Walking in a mall also helps to “excuse-proof” your exercise program, according to WalkSport’s Web site, www.walksport.com. Mall walkers don’t have to worry about weather, bugs, traffic, sunburn or any other outdoor excuse. Restrooms, water and often security officers also are nearby.
Gallagher, who took the role March 15 as the Sunrise Mall group’s walk coach, said such benefits make his job easy.
“I don’t have to tell these people anything to keep them motivated,” the comedian/actor said as he watched walkers follow a designated path at a brisk, steady pace. “These people are here everyday at 8 a.m.”
Ida Murchison, 85, of Citrus Heights was among the first to sign up 20 years ago for the Sunrise Mall Walk program. Since then, she has walked a total of 25,000 miles at the mall, lost 100 pounds and has lowered her cholesterol count and blood pressure, she said.
“I don’t have anything wrong with me, and that’s because I walk,” Murchison said during a brief rest.
GALLERIA AT ROSEVILLE * 1151 Galleria Blvd., Roseville
* Walk times: 8 a.m. until closing daily.
* Course distance: 1 lap (upper and lower level) = 1 mile.
* Entrance: All doors open.
* Contact: Galleria at Roseville, (916) 789-7467.
TIPS FOR MALL WALKERS Walk with a buddy: Make sure you both can walk the same pace for the same amount of time.
Window shop: It’s a great way to spot bargains.
Listen to “walking songs”: Compile songs that include “walking” or “walk” in the title or chorus, or listen to other songs that get you moving.
Make plans for after your walk: Something special to look forward to is good motivation.
Aim for prizes: Many mall walk programs include incentives for miles and hours walked.
Play games: Like those played on family car trips, they help pass the time.
Set personal goals: Plan on increasing frequency and intensity of walks. Keep a journal.
Enjoy the scenery: Many malls are fun places to people-watch.
Think, dream and plan: Use walking time to clear your head.
Reward yourself: Small indulgences remind you that you’re doing something positive.
Source: “The Complete Mall Walker’s Handbook: Walking for Fun and Fitness” by Dr. John H. Bland and Jenna Colby
Copyright (c) 2006, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.
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