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What Is Mall Walking?

Lily Ruha
Lily Ruha

Mall walking is the practice of exercising in a shopping mall. Some people walk in malls to avoid extreme weather. For others it is an opportunity to exercise with friends in an environment that allows them to shop and socialize in a food court. Exercising in a mall is an especially popular activity for older people because it is a safe environment with moderate temperatures and a more relaxed atmosphere than a busy gym or a high traffic street. Mall walking organizations bring people together to exercise and also plan mall health fairs.

One of the reasons people exercise in a mall is to continue their walking routines when the outside weather becomes extreme. In a mall, people benefit from moderate temperatures. Long hallways and staircases present opportunities for aerobic exercise. Some malls are open before and after store hours and allow mall walking groups and individuals to get a full workout. In some cases, mall walkers carry hand and ankle weights, while others jog for more strenuous exercise.

Long mall hallways offer excellent opportunities for aerobic exercise.
Long mall hallways offer excellent opportunities for aerobic exercise.

Mall walking is also a popular activity for those who enjoy combining exercise with shopping. Friends can meet at the mall before it opens to benefit from exercise and then spend time shopping together and eating in the food court. Mall walking is also an attractive activity for people who do not enjoy the gym environment and who prefer to get exercise in other ways. Walking in a mall is also a way to multitask for those who want to both shop and exercise.

Malls offer a safe, warm place to exercise.
Malls offer a safe, warm place to exercise.

Shopping mall walking is also a popular activity for older people. Exercising at a constant temperature and away from various elements, including rain, wind, and the hot sun, can be beneficial for the elderly. Being away from city traffic and crosswalks is also important for older people who may not be able to walk as quickly. Meeting friends at a mall presents an opportunity for seniors to socialize and also benefit from health screening services.

Mall walking may be a good alternative for elderly individuals who do not want to pay for a personal trainer.
Mall walking may be a good alternative for elderly individuals who do not want to pay for a personal trainer.

Mall walking organizations are generally grassroots efforts aimed at encouraging people to increase their physical activity through exercising in a relaxed environment. These groups announce their events through word of mouth, postings on community bulletin boards, or on their websites. Such organizations often bring together people of all ages from various social circles. Other activities of these organizations include coordinating mall health fairs, which offer services such as blood pressure screenings and cholesterol tests.

Discussion Comments


A mall near me opens for walkers at 5 a.m. every day of the week. I think they have a club people can sign up for, but I walk there week day mornings and have never signed up for anything. I don't see the point and am not much of a "joiner" type person anyway. I can't imagine "mall walking" when the stores are open! Seems like that would just be crazy hectic to do. I don't spend even spend a dime at the Starbucks (which is open by at least 6 a.m. I think). I'm there to walk and burn a few calories, not to socialize (except for a friendly wave and a "good morning!" to other walkers) or eat or drink coffee even.

I need to lose weight, I hate exercise, I hate the outdoors, I hate the idea of joining a gym and exercising around other people. But I got to the point where I knew I needed to do something. So I started going to this mall, started out walking just 15 minutes for a couple of days, then 20, then 30, 45. Now I walk an hour there five days a week. I try to walk at a good pace for me, even if I have people years older than me going a lot faster and passing me right by. Maybe eventually I'll be in as good a shape as them!

I work in as many stairs as I can, and I walk on two separate levels of the mall for variety. I am also eating much healthier. I don't want to spend that time doing all that walking just to turn around and eat unhealthy junk -- that would just be a total waste. I have a long way to go but am seeing results.

I now enjoy walking in the mall and look forward to it each morning even though I am pretty beat and tired afterwards (but in a good way). I actually miss it on the weekends, but I know I also need those days to rest a little more.

Mall walking has become some really nice "me" time. It doesn't cost anything. All I carry with me is my cell phone and my wallet/ID (just in case there's an emergency and/or I keel over and mall security needs to check who the heck this woman is). There are water fountains when I need a drink, restrooms when I need to take a wee, all in a good, safe, climate-controlled environment. For me it's the perfect place to get some much-needed walking exercise done.


Another variety of mall walking is called stroller strides. This is an organized activity. I think they come together about twice a week. Mothers come with their babies and toddlers to exercise by walking at a fast rate while pushing the babies in strollers. There's no babysitting to take care of and babies love it.

Each group has a leader and they measure heart rate and distance walked. I think it's a great program. I wish they had it when I was a young mother.


@Mutsy - You make a good point. I also think that mall walking is great for people that are feeling a little isolated and would like to make some friends.

I know that many of the local malls have a mall walkers group that anyone can join. I think that this is great for stay-at-home moms that might want to make new friends while getting a little exercise.


My problem with mall walking is that I don’t think that it gets my heart rate high enough. I don’t that runner’s high that I get when doing more intense aerobic exercise.

I do think that if you are not exercising and want to start a workout routine this would be an excellent way to do it because walking is inexpensive and it is easy.

Also if you get a group together it also might be fun. I remember when I used to walk I would always carry a pedometer so that way I could measure the distance that I walked every day. It was a great way to keep me motivate when I tracked my steps. I read that 2,000 steps equals one mile.


@runner101 - I completely agree with you about needing willpower to not shop when mall walking, but I think you could do some things to help prevent impulse spending such as mall walking with friends who will hold you accountable for any purchases made while one was supposed to be working out or even take a frugal spouse with you - that should really do the trick.

I have also thought of actually leaving my purse in the trunk of my car to prevent me from spending, but that would not work for me - I would probably walk all the way out to my car and then all the way back to the item I wanted to purchase!


I will stick to my indoor exercise routine of working out on the elliptical machine in the comfort of my home, though I do think mall walking is a brilliant way to continue to exercise in the colder months.

The reason I do not think it would be a good idea for me to walk through the mall is because of what I imagine would go through my head while walking through the mall. "That would be perfect for me." "That would be perfect for my nephews." "So and so would love that." My "exercise" would end up being more of an exercise of will power versus a cardio workout.

But for those who have control over their wallet I congratulate you on an absolute brilliant way to combine exercising with shopping for a way to make exercising more fun.


I love cold weather, and I can walk outdoors in winter with no problem. For me, the summertime is the most brutal. I live down South where the temperatures sometimes exceed 100 degrees and the humidity is thick. People could literally die from exercising outside.

I do mall walking on my lunch break during the summer. I work near a mall, so I bring my lunch and eat it on a bench inside. Then, I get up and do a few laps inside of the building.

For me, walking at lunch time is great, because it removes the temptation to stop and spend money. I know that I have no time to look around, so I stay focused on exercise.


The mall near my home is dedicated to supporting walkers. Even after all but one of the businesses inside it shut down, the actual building remained open for those wishing to exercise.

The mall owners decided to convert one end of it into a movie theater. Though this took up some space that the walkers had been using, there was still enough room left for them.

Even while one end was under construction, mall walkers could use the other end. Now, even though there are only two businesses in the mall, the middle section serves as a walking track for the community.


@Sara007 – Since your children are well behaved, I don't think a mall walking organization would have any issue with them being there. As long as they can keep up with you and not wander around, it should be fine.

Of course, it all depends upon the specific organization. My sister does mall walking, and she used to be able to bring her children. However, since they were so noisy and disruptive, the organization decided to ban children.

Some programs go by the individual children rather than making a law. If someone has unruly kids, then the person in charge will ask them to leave. If someone has perfectly well mannered kids who walk along with them, then they will be fine.

I would suggest that you either call and ask someone or show up alone the first time and find out if children are allowed. That way, you won't have to go home, disappointed at having gone there for nothing if your children are prohibited.


@turquoise – That's good that you don't go near the food court. I can't imagine walkers stopping to eat such unhealthy food after having worked so hard to get rid of some calories!

I am a mall walker, but I'm kind of one in disguise. I don't wear workout clothes, because I walk alone during regular mall hours, and I don't want to stand out. I just wear comfortable walking shoes and walk briskly from one end to the other a couple of times.

I have been tempted by the smells from the food court, and since it is in the middle of the mall, I cannot help but walk past it. I know that basically everything there is high in fat and calories, and this motivates me to stay on track and walk away from it. Also, I don't like to eat alone in public, so going by myself helps me avoid temptation.


I live in the country and quite a few miles from the closest mall. For me this wouldn't make much sense to do on a regular basis, but I understand why people do it.

My parents live close to a mall and this is part of their morning routine. Many of the malls in our area actually encourage mall walkers.

They come in handy as an extra pair of eyes and ears and can help alert security if they see any problems.

One of our malls had a lot of teenagers hanging out that were usually up to no good. Just having the presence of the mall walkers, helped with this problem.

Some of the malls also have mall walking programs as a way to encourage mall walkers. Many times when they are done walking, they will spend some money at the food court or pick up something they need. This is a great way to bring in repeat business for the mall.


I like mall walking because it is a nice environment and I get some exercise. But I also like it because I am able to find lots of great deals. I know when every store is having a sale or offering something special and I can time my purchases to pay the lowest price possible.

I'm not sure how much money this has saved me over the years but I'm sure that it is a lot. Of course, on the flip side, maybe I never would have bought those things at all if I hadn't spent so much time in the mall.


I have been an enthusiastic mall walker for over 10 years now. I live in Wisconsin and it gets really cold during the winter. During the summer and spring I walk outside but in the cold months it is nearly impossible.

I used to go to a gym and walk around their track but it is just so boring. You have nothing to look at and you are often bombarded by terrible top 40 music, or else total silence. I like to go to the mall to walk because their is so much to look at. Between the stores, the signs and the people you never get bored even if you have made the same loop 100 times.


Do you think that most mall walking programs would mind if you brought your children along?

I am under the impression that most mall walking is aimed at older adults, and I am a bit worried that I won't be welcome if I have to drag my kids along too. They are quite well behaved, so I know they wouldn't have any problems walking with me.

The summers where I am are very humid and walking outside just makes me feel ill and sweaty. I think hiding in the air conditioning would be a much better way to do my walking.


There are a lot of advantages to mall walking and I have been doing it for years. I live in a part of the country that has extreme temperatures.

Our winters are very cold and snowy, and our summers are very hot with high humidity. In between we have a lot of rainy, windy days. There aren't a lot of days when the weather is great for walking outside.

I think walking is one of the best weight loss exercises there is, and it can be done just about anywhere.

The mall where I usually walk opens a few hours before the stores actually open, and this is when I like to walk. You don't have to worry about people and I don't feel bad about picking up the pace to a jog once in awhile.

If I walk when the mall is open, I just walk briskly and don't think it would look very good to be jogging through the mall.

I have also met some great mall walking friends this way. We are all there for the same purpose, and have become friends over the years.


There is actually a walking program at my local mall and it is for all ages. Basically you show up about an hour before the stores open and can power walk around the mall. It is actually a great way to look at displays and walking as exercise has always been a good way to get your heart pumping.

I usually avoid going out walking in the winter time because it is so cold, but with my doctor demanding I do more weight loss exercise I have to figure out something to keep the pounds at bay. I think that mall walking with a good pair of shoes on is probably the cheapest and easiest way to get in your daily exercise.


@turquoise-- I've heard about mall walking clubs and have been thinking that it's a silly idea. Can you imagine- people shopping, having coffee and eating and I'm there in my t-shirt and exercise pants, with an ipod in my ears and walking speedily past everyone?! I think they would laugh at me!

But I like how you guys have been doing it. It's not so silly when you're the only ones in the mall! I might actually try that sometime.

By the way, do the mall authorities have any rules about mall walking? Like which times of the day it's allowed, or which parts of the mall it's allowed in?


My friends and I've started mall walking for fitness every weekday between 9 and 10am last month. It's been going great so far! We were talking about the fees for the gym when one of the girls mentioned mall walking and we decided to try it. Not only is it an air conditioned/heated open area, but you don't have to spend any money.

We did decided on two rules though. We will only go in the morning because barely anyone is there at that time aside from the employees. It would be difficult and awkward to do mall walking when there's lots of people. We've also decided that we won't stop to shop and that we won't walk near the food court.

The reason is because the food court smells so good and makes us hungry. It's a distraction from exercise and we might end up eating and taking more calories than we burned.

I think when it's done this way, mall walking is an excellent and completely free exercise routine. I recommend it to all the ladies out there.


@ysminia - I also wind up mall walking just incidentally. For instance, sometimes I have lunch with my sister at a restaurant in the mall that serves $2 margaritas. We just one apiece, but we still like to walk around a while before we get in our cars to drive our kids home! We pop the little ones in the strollers and do a lap or two.

I had a baby in January and I remember my mom walking me around the mall a couple of days before I delivered because it was too cold to walk outside. We had had lunch and I think done a little shopping; we also, if I remember right, went into Cosco to taste all the samples! (She's a member.) Then we just walked a few laps. When I wasn't stopping to use the bathroom!


I don't intentionally do mall walking for exercise, but end up doing it when I go shopping. I love shopping and want to visit as many stores as possible, especially when there is a sale. I walk so much, that it's even better than a workout at the gym. It's also much easier to do because I have so much fun shopping that I don't realize how active I am.

I agree that malls are a great option when it's cold outside. I live in Minnesota and it's unbelievably cold here in winter. There is snow and ice everywhere and taking a walk outside is just not an option. But we have the biggest mall of America here in Minnesota and it's so warm inside. You can walk for hours!

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    • Long mall hallways offer excellent opportunities for aerobic exercise.
      By: LuckyPhoto
      Long mall hallways offer excellent opportunities for aerobic exercise.
    • Malls offer a safe, warm place to exercise.
      By: Andris Piebalgs
      Malls offer a safe, warm place to exercise.
    • Mall walking may be a good alternative for elderly individuals who do not want to pay for a personal trainer.
      By: Ammentorp
      Mall walking may be a good alternative for elderly individuals who do not want to pay for a personal trainer.
    • After completing cardiovascular exercises such as mall walking, a person typically experiences lower blood pressure than he had prior to starting the workout.
      By: Cheyenne
      After completing cardiovascular exercises such as mall walking, a person typically experiences lower blood pressure than he had prior to starting the workout.