For approximately four years, William and Carole Hawke of Eastlake have been getting up early to get to the Great Lakes Mall in Mentor.
The couple isn’t there to shop, but instead walk the one-mile lap around the mall’s pathways.
“It’s better than walking outside,” William says. “(It’s) warm and the floors are safe to walk on.”
During winter, community members such as the Hawkes take advantage of indoor walking programs. Many take place in malls, while others are held at area recreation centers.
Walk This Way to Health
For people who have a regular exercise routine, it’s an opportunity to stay fit. Walking, while not as strenuous as an aerobic workout, has many benefits.
“It’s good for your heart, circulation and blood pressure, along with good for your bones,” says Laurie Pfahler, registered nurse and community nurse at Southwest General Hospital. It doesn’t put a lot of stress on your joints. It helps people maintain a healthy weight, and is a stress reliever.”
Pfahler, who also maintains the ParkFit Mall Walkers Club, which is a Southwest General and SouthPark Mall in Strongsville based program, says the mall-walking program gives some consistency to a workout program.
“I think it’s important we are at the mall, it’s a safe, warm environment,” she says. “(The mall walkers) don’t have to belong to a fitness center and there’s no need to worry about the ice and temperature outdoors.”
The program at the SouthPark Mall, which has been around since 1998 and has about 200 members enrolled in the club yearly, has many physical benefits, but also social ones too.
“You make friends, meet new people,” Pfahler says.
She notes some might find an “exercise buddy” who helps motivate them to keep coming back to the program.
For many of the mall walkers, it becomes a social event after the walk is done.
During the programs, which are usually held a couple of hours before the mall opens, you might see groups gathered at the food court tables having a morning coffee.
For the Hawkes, they have seen benefits, physical and social.
“Our cardio is a lot better,” the couple says. “It gets you going and keeps your weight down. You also get to meet people who have been walking and have made friends.”
Added Benefits to Programs
While many mall-walking programs provide an opportunity to come to the mall early and walk free, others have additional service offerings.
Programs like the ones at SouthPark, Beachwood, Great Lakes and other malls have partnered with area healthcare providers to deliver wellness checks and monthly speakers.
For example, at ParkFit Mall Walkers Club, there are monthly blood pressure screenings provided by the community outreach nurses at Southwest General, along with a speaker.
For those looking to get started in a mall-walking program, it’s always a good idea to check with your health professional before giving it a try.
If you are caregiver, Pfahler says to offer to go with your loved one if they are nervous about going alone.
“There’s no start-up fee, you don’t need special equipment,” she says. “Just go out for a little bit. At the mall, (while you walk) you can look in the store windows and you can play up the social piece, which is an added benefit. “