Tips For Mall Walkers 


by John H. Bland, M.D., with Jenna Colby, R.D., L.D.

Most mall walkers choose a mall and walk at that one on a regular basis. Other mall walkers like to vary their routine by exercising at different local malls. You can do whatever works for you, depending on what’s available in your community.

Some of the larger malls nationwide have mall-walking programs that draw large numbers of walkers. Highlights of these programs may include:

        early-morning hours for mall walkers

        informational seminars on heart health, exercise, safety, nutrition, and other topics

        monthly activities sponsored by a local hospital or other healthcare organization

        free blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests, body-fat measuring, and other diagnostic screenings

        educational speakers and presenters

        demonstrations of proper walking techniques

        membership cards 

        special incentives for mall walkers (prizes, coupons, store discounts, and so forth)

        computerized cards that record the miles or hours you’ve walked, or even the approximate number of calories you’ve burned

        maps that indicate the distance around the mall at each level, so you can track your progress

If your local mall has perks like this, take advantage of them! This is a great way to make the most of your mall-walking experience. Plus, you can get to know other mall walkers and even make friends with them.

Be sure to show your support for the program and let the sponsors know what’s working. Give them feedback about the speakers, special events, incentives, and so on. Offer comments about the program newsletter, if there is one, and ideas for new articles. If your mall-walking program features a suggestion box, make use of it. If there’s no suggestion box, suggest one!

Promoting a Walking Program at Your Local Mall

If your mall doesn’t have a walking program, consider talking to the mall’s management staff to find out why. Some malls don’t want to be responsible for possible injuries, and if this is the case, suggest that the staff develop a consent form mall walkers must sign before joining the program. Perhaps the mall staff isn’t aware of how much public support there might be for a mall-walking program. If you have friends, neighbors, and coworkers who want to mall walk, ask them to call the promotions department of the mall to express their interest.

You may even want to volunteer your time to get the program underway. You could help the mall create a mission statement for the program and come up with goals and objectives to meet this mission. Or you could help spread the word about the program. Place ads in local newspapers, in community newsletters, or on the radio. Hang colorful posters in churches, health clubs, grocery stores, senior citizen centers, community centers, banks, and hospitals. It may be fun to come up with a special program name and logo that communicates the physical and social benefits of mall walking.

Once the program is in place, stay involved—not just by walking but by suggesting new ideas for keeping the program fresh and fun. Ask merchants in the mall to donate items as prizes to mall walkers who complete a designated distance. Popular prizes include:

        water bottles



        fanny packs

        gift certificates

        pens and pencils

        T-shirts with the program’s logo

        store discounts

In addition, you may be able to find restaurants that will provide free coffee or juice to mall walkers, or coupons for food items. Another fun incentive is to recognize the individual achievements of walkers involved in the program: Ask the mall to post or announce names of people who have walked a certain number of miles.

Having Fun While You Walk

One of the most important things to remember about mall walking is this: Have fun! You’re more likely to keep walking if you look forward to it, enjoy it, and can find creative ways to stay entertained.

Here are some tips for making your mall-walking routine more enjoyable:

1.  Walk with a buddy. Bring along a friend or meet up with one at the mall. Just make sure you’re both at a similar fitness level and can walk at the same pace for the same amount of time. (Family members make good walking buddies, too.)

2.  Window shop. Mall walking is a great way to keep an eye out for bargains—especially if you’re at the mall several times a week. Walk by your favorite stores regularly to see what’s on sale.

3.   Listen to “walking songs.” Make a cassette tape of tunes that have “walking” or “walk” in the title or chorus—it’s a great motivator. Or just listen to music that moves you. (Many malls play music during mall-walking hours, which is enjoyable if you like what they play.) 

4.  Make plans for after your walk. You’ll be even more motivated if you have something special to look forward to such as coffee with friends, a breakfast or lunch date, or shopping at all the stores you’ve passed while walking.

5.  Aim for the prizes. If your mall-walking program includes incentives for miles and/or hours walked, make it your goal to win a prize—then another, and another.

6.  Play games. Remember the Alphabet Game during long family car trips? You can play it while mall walking. Look at signs throughout the mall, watching for words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Once you’ve found one letter, move on to the next, and the next. You can also create your own mall-walking version of I Spy, or invent other “mind games.”

7.  Set personal goals. Decide when and how to increase the frequency, duration, or intensity of your walks, then go for it! It may help to keep a journal of your successes, so you can see how much you’ve accomplished. Get creative with goal-setting. For example, you could figure out the distance to a travel destination (a weekend getaway, a bed-and-breakfast), then reward yourself with a trip to that place once you’ve walked the number of miles it would take to get there.

8.  Enjoy the scenery. Many malls have attractive decorations and store displays, especially during the holiday season. Malls are also a fun place to “people watch.” You’ll probably see lots of familiar faces if you’re a regular mall walker. Wave, say hi, or catch up with someone you know.

9.  Think, dream, and plan. Use this time to clear your head. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about all the things you have to do at work or everything you need to catch up on at home. This is your time—dream about your summer garden, imagine a trip you’d like to take, plan a great meal for you and someone special, or just think about wonderful things you’d like to accomplish in the future.

10.  Reward yourself. Give yourself a reward for walking—you’ve earned it. Stop for a fruit smoothie or low-fat yogurt, buy a new sweatshirt, get a massage, or take a hot bath when you get home. These small indulgences not only will remind you that you’re doing something positive for yourself but also will help motivate you to stick with your program.

From The Complete Mall Walker’s Handbook, by John H. Bland, M.D., Jenna Colby, R.D., L.D. Copyright © 1999 John H. Bland, M.D., Jenna Colby, and Fairview Press. Excerpted by arrangement with Fairview Press. $14.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-544-8207 or click here.