It’s cold outside, and it’s much easier this time of year to sit inside on a frigid, blustery day and read a book under a blanket while sipping a mug of tea. It’s often difficult for us to find the motivation we had on Jan. 1 to exercise and get fit.
Many barriers exist when we try to implement a physical activity routine, especially one focused on walking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists sidewalk conditions, crosswalks, lack of daylight in the winter and safety from traffic and crime among these obstacles. But exercise is a necessary part of our daily routine. How can we get the 30 minutes a day, five days a week of physical activity we need without freezing our feet off?
Why not try mall walking? While this isn’t a new idea, the mall is an often underutilized public space for those who wish to exercise in comfort and safety. Shopping malls can offer some of the best perks, such as:
- Temperature-controlled buildings
- Accessible bathrooms
- Free water fountains
- Flat and level walking routes
- Well-lit and safe environments with security present
- Benches to rest
- No memberships required, so family and friends can walk with you
Also, the only thing individuals need to start mall walking is a positive attitude and a good pair of sneakers – so there are no excuses.
Research studies suggest that when individuals exercise with a friend who is also motivated, they are more likely to exercise longer, harder and enjoy it more. Whether you are alone or with others, walking has many physical benefits. Walking 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers, according to the American Heart Association.
While you should walk at a pace that is challenging – yet comfortable – for you, a good rule of thumb is to use the talk test. The talk test will determine if you are exercising at a moderate or vigorous level of activity. If you’re walking at a moderate pace, you should be able to talk, but not sing. Vigorous activity occurs when you are not able to say more than a few words without having to stop. If you walk into the vigorous zone, slow down or take a quick break to lower your heart rate to a moderate level.
Most malls open their front doors at least an hour early for mall walkers to have free reign. This is probably the easiest time to get your steps in, since you will not have to maneuver around crowds coming in and out of stores. Consider walking the stairs for a workout bonus. Step into the land of department stores with a nice pair of walking shoes and have fun this winter.
For more information on increasing your level of physical activity and walking, see the tips from UGA Extension at www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/health-lose-weight-exercise.
(Kristen Sumpter is a family and consumer sciences agent with UGA Cooperative Extension in Fulton County.)