VOICES: Mall walking keeps us going

A million years ago, give or take a decade, I was active. I ran, walked for charity, biked, swam, played softball and volleyball, and hiked. Time passed and my body changed. I could maybe do a cartwheel for you — once. Bodies need continued movement, throughout life, or we experience increasing limitations. Today I’ve found mall walking to help me keep moving. There are practical, social, mental, and physical rewards.

Since the first shopping mall opened in Edina, Minnesota, in 1956, people have flocked to malls to do their shopping. But almost as soon as malls were opened, shoppers realized malls were great for something else, too — walking. Mall walking began in the 1960s and surged in popularity in the eighties and nineties, and malls have started formal programs to encourage people to get fit during off hours.

Wide paths hold all shapes, sizes, and abilities Participating malls give walkers a window before shops open, during which they can walk several laps. There are places to rest and socialize. It’s free, consistent, and casual. Walk alone or with friends. I walk with my husband. You can even hold hands!

You can walk anywhere, but problems arise when areas are busier, sidewalks are not level, and weather interrupts. If alone outside, crime is a concern.

A common subset of walkers, seniors, have challenges. These include sedentary lives, isolation, depression, loneliness, and anxiety. Crime, physical and online, may target seniors, especially the frail of mind and body. According to the World Health Organization, by 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or over. At this time, the share of the population aged 60 years and over will increase from one billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion. By 2050, the world’s population of people aged 60 years and older will double (2.1 billion). The number of persons aged 80 years or older is expected to triple between 2020 and 2050 to reach 426 million.

With falls remaining the leading cause of injuries in those sixty-five and older, walking daily improves balance and strength which improves health and lessens that risk. Malls help the walkers, so in gratitude, walkers shop in mall stores and tell others about the mall’s helpful service to them. Participating malls present well-maintained areas and offer flexibility in hours that are not crowded with shoppers.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 and economic issues in some instances have caused mall locations to lessen support of mall workers’ programs. Participants may begin to feel that big business no longer cares for those in their community who rely on malls for exercise. When malls are not supporting customers, customers do not want to support the mall. This is a lose-lose situation.

Walking for exercise discourages heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, and aids one’s stability. It’s a gentle activity that aids rehabilitation after a surgery or injury. The stiffened muscles and loss of strength those confined to bed can experience build weakness in mind, body, and spirit. Patients are oft encouraged to walk — safely — which stretches and strengthens, getting folks up on their feet, and building endurance step by step.

Mentally, walking helps to improve mood, memory, and sleep. It can stave off diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Mall areas are comfortable and interesting. With bright paths, level floors, places to rest, less traffic, security present, and pleasant noise levels, walkers are grateful to be able to work on the potential for better health. Longevity is an attainable goal: a chance to do desired activities and the strength to do them. This opportunity is for everyone, not just “old people”, because it benefits every age and body type.

Those I’ve met are truly my family now and are friendly, talkative, share remarkable stories, and give sound advice. They allow me to be my eccentric self. And wow! They can bake!

Mary Standridge is part of a local “mall walkers” group of about 40 to 50 members.


Dayton Mall

2700 Miamisburg Centerville Rd

Dayton, OH 45459


Call to confirm walking hours.

Town and Country Shopping Center

300 E Stroop Rd

Kettering, OH 45429


Call to confirm walking hours.

The Greene Town Center

4452 Buckeye Lane

Beavercreek, OH 45440


Call to confirm walking hours.

The Mall at Fairfield Commons

2727 Fairfield Commons

Beavercreek, OH 45431


Currently opens for walkers at 10:30 M-F. Call to confirm.

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