D.C. ó Flora Yang is small, spry and not afraid to tell you
her age: "90-something." She walks twice a week at
Mazza Gallerie in Northwest Washington, D.C., and says mall
walking keeps her young and fit.
officials are starting to notice that effect too and say more
malls should open their doors to walkers.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out a guide
saying the mall is a perfect place for seniors to get in their
no secret that getting up and moving makes people healthier
and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
But unpredictable weather and unsafe streets sometimes get in
the way, especially for seniors.
where shopping malls come in.
walking began decades ago, when heart doctors began
recommending it to their patients, said Basia Belza, a
professor at the University of Washingtonís nursing school.
She estimates that hundreds of programs exist around the
country, but they arenít widely known.
are the best-kept secret," Belza said.
resource guide, for malls, released last year, encourages
malls to expand walking clubs and set up new ones. The guide,
co-authored by Belza, said indoor shopping centers are ideal
for walking because their level surfaces make seniors less
likely to slip and fall. Malls are also well-lit and have
water fountains, restrooms and places to rest. And seniors can
walk in malls regardless of the weather.
surgeon general cited mall walking last year in a national
call to action to improve the nationís walkability and to
get more people moving.
walking clubs are often partnerships between a shopping center
and providers, hospitals and community groups that serve
seniors. They are typically free for walkers, and some include
organized warm-up exercises, health screenings and lectures
about healthy eating.
Memorial Hospital runs the walking club at Mazza Gallerie. In
addition to helping seniors get exercise, participating in the
club reduces their isolation, said Marti Bailey, director of
the hospitalís senior association. "Itís so much more
than walking," Bailey said. "Itís walking,
talking, sharing life together in a real way. Itís the
beauty of the walking club."
said such clubs are more important now than ever, given the
aging of the population and the number of seniors living with
believes she was the first member of the Mazza Gallerie
walking club. She said she started walking there in 1992, back
when she could carry her granddaughter in her arms. Soon, she
said, people started walking with her, and the numbers grew.
She has benefited greatly, she said.
I can fight you," she said, giggling.
of the club come and go. Ann Morales, the secretary of the
group, pulled out a photo of its walkers from several years
ago. "This is the doctor who used to be here," she
said. "He passed away Ö Marlene, Flora are here. We
havenít seen this lady for a long time."
mornings that they gather, the seniors start with a blood
pressure check by a retired doctor.
take a peek," Aric Schichor said as he wrapped the cuff
around Yangís arm. "140 over 80."
Yang stood up and headed down the hall, holding hands with
another longtime walker, Marlene Jordan. "My doctor says
I need a cane," Jordan said. "I donít think I need
her cane," Yang said, giving her a squeeze.
group strolled past a T.J. Maxx and a jewelry store and turned
the corner at a Subway sandwich shop. Seven times around made
Fox, 87, has been walking with the group for a few years. She
lives in a condo with a fitness center, but she prefers to
come here. She likes the company.
a nice way to start the day," she said.
all, Fox said, she appreciates being able to visit with the
doctor. She has hypertension and feels better after having her
blood pressure checked.
groups also benefit the malls, which have struggled to attract
traffic as more consumers turn to online shopping.
Schade, a spokeswoman for Mazza Gallerie, said the walkers
there often visit the stores, see a movie or grab breakfast.
have seen an uptick in business thanks to the mall walking
program," Schade said.
Murli, for example, always heads to McDonaldís afterward. He
and a friend always order the same thing: two coffees and two
not healthy, but itís allowed," Murli said. But, he
added, only after walking.
Shield of California Foundation helps fund KHN coverage in