Walking Guide

University of Washington, Prevention Research Center

interior of a mall

Walking is a great way to increase physical activity. It requires no special skills, costly equipment, or special clothing beyond comfortable walking shoes. Sometimes it is hard to find a safe place to walk, however, preventing a person from being physically active. For example, many neighborhoods lack sidewalks, have busy traffic, and sometimes are unsafe (e.g., crime, poor lighting, uneven surfaces). Weather can also play a role in someone’s decision to walk or not. But walking inside a shopping mall can solve many of these problems.

Mall walking offers a safe, free, comfortable, walker-friendly way for the public to be more physically active. A guide to establishing and improving mall walking programs was developed by the University of Washington’s Health Promotion Research Center (HPRC) and CDC. Mall Walking: A Program Resource Guide explains how mall walking makes it easy to be physically active by providing:

  • An indoor environment to avoid harsh weather.
  • Mall security staff and the presence of other walkers and shoppers.
  • Level ground, which can reduce the risk of trips and falls.
  • Company of fellow mall walkers.
  • Well-lit restrooms, access to free water fountains, and benches or places to sit and rest.

Mall Walking: A Program Resource Guide is a great tool with strategies for established mall walking programs, and for groups and individuals who want to start and maintain a mall walking program. The guide also has information and examples for other locations in areas where a mall is not available, such as zoos, botanical gardens, and commercial spaces.

People who are physically active live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.

Physical activity such as walking can help improve health. To gain health benefits, national guidelines recommend that adults, including older adults, should obtain at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity.1 People who are physically active live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Improving spaces and having safe places to walk can help more people become physically active.

This guide is useful for mall managers and others promoting and improving places for people who have different physical abilities to benefit from physical activity.

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US Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/paguidelines/2008/. Accessed December 4, 2018.