Mr Bee and I are currently watching “Better Call Saul” on Netflix, and in a recent episode, Saul mentioned mall walkers, complaining that they are hard to chase (he is selling them his will-making services) as they are all walking so damned fast.
In the UK, this is a relatively little-known phenomenon; there are pockets of it (hello Bluewater, Kent), but in the US and in Australia it seems a much bigger deal. And what an amazing idea it is.
I believe it all started in America when the first fully enclosed U.S. mall, the Stockdale, opened in Minnesota in 1956 and local doctors suggested patients recovering from heart attacks should exercise there, away from the snow and ice of Minnesota’s harsh winters. 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.
“You always have a bathroom, and most malls have security. Even if you have a heart issue, they have defibrillators.”
So if you live near one, what are the benefits? They are under-cover so weather proof. My Mum used to mall walk in Brisbane Australia, mainly because during their summers, it is way too hot to exercise outside if you are elderly, so an early morning brisk hour of walking in the air-conditioned mall was the perfect solution. If the mall allows, you can get the walk done before the shoppers arrive, but then grab a coffee or breakfast with your fellow exercisers. Water fountains are often available, as is seating if you over-do it. From my Mum’s point of view, it was sociable as well as being a good form of exercise. You go at your own pace and there is certainly plenty to look at. The mall owners/managers can benefit from this extra business at an otherwise very slow time of day, and the canny shop owners can work it to their benefit (Senior Citizen specials on offer).
Some years ago I emailed the British Heart Foundation asking whether they had thought of launching a programme of Mall Walking in the UK, but I never heard back. Maybe it is time for the UK to start to promote it. I think a couple of the bigger UK malls do it (the Bullring in Birmingham, The Trafford Centre in Manchester and the White Rose in Leeds as well as Bluewater); the NHS mention it on their website under ‘Get Fit For Free’ which is good, but maybe if the BHF got behind it, it could help us all.
At present I am happiest walking and running outside, but I can imagine in my dotage, I would love to join this merry band of mall walkers. And I will walk super fast if I am being pursued by anyone flogging me their will-writing services.
Annie Bee x