These malls are made for walking

Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:13am EST
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Mall walking, or ambling around a shopping center for exercise, has become a major fitness option in the United States, and not just for senior citizens.

"The highest percentage of mall walkers are retired," said Sara Donovan, who wrote the book "Mall Walking Madness: Everything You Need to Know to Lose Weight and Have Fun at the Same Time."

"And yet there's a big contingent of stroller moms and also, and this is something we didn't expect, parents who have home-schooled their kids and mall walk as part of the kids' physical education," she said.

Walking is among the oldest fitness options. Thousands of years ago the Greek physician Hippocrates declared walking man's best medicine. Today the AARP, a leading senior organization, lists managing weight, controlling blood pressure, decreasing risk of heart attack and stroke, among its many benefits.

Mall walking began when the first fully enclosed U.S. mall, the Stockdale, opened in Minnesota in 1956 and local doctors counseled patients recovering from heart attacks to exercise there, away from the snow and ice of Minnesota's harsh winters.

"It was very grassroots. People who wanted to get exercise gravitated to the Stockdale mall," Donovan explained. "Then the managers opened their doors earlier."

The 1980s saw a boom in the construction of malls and by 2001, some 2.5 million people were walking in 1,800 malls in the United States, according to Donovan's book. Mall walking has since spread to Europe and Asia.

The Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, has been operating its mall-walking program, called Mall Stars, since opening in 1992.   Continued...

<p>Shoppers are pictured at the Glendale Galleria shopping mall on Black Friday in Glendale, California in this November 28, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>