Sport trekking shoe isolated over white with clipping pathWhat’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘Mall Walker’?

While many of us may have preconceived notions on the topic and think we don’t fit into the stereotypes we have created in our minds, you’ll never know until you give it a try. And that is exactly what happened with my mother-in-law.

“I was talking with a friend about wanting to get more exercise and she suggested mall walking to me. I couldn’t believe it, I thought she knew I was more cutting edge than that. And I mean, that’s what really old people do, and being somewhere in the 55-65 age group, I consider myself on the young end of old. But I agreed to give it a try.” – Hayly Tompa

So Hayly took the mall walking leap, and was met with more than a few surprises on that first day.

“I arrived for my first mall walking experience just after 7 a.m. and the first person I saw was an older lady with gray hair and a walker. She was fidgeting with something and in my head I thought, ‘this is exactly what I was expecting’. But then she started going. I realized she was actually fidgeting with her music and once she was set, she was off! I couldn’t believe how fast she was and how long she kept up her pace. I’ll admit I was really impressed… and I couldn’t keep up with her.” – Hayly Tompa

Mall walking is no lackadaisical event. Walkers take it very seriously; they have a goal and are going to achieve it. But what caught Hayly’s attention even more was the walkers themselves.

“As I started off and began looking around I noticed how diverse the mall walking group was. There were people who had to be in their 80’s or 90’s, some as young as 40, and of course all ages in between. Beyond the age differences, you could see some businessmen and women getting their circuit in before work, there were nurses, stay-at-home moms, and retirees.” – Hayly Tompa

It really shouldn’t be so surprising that mall walking is as popular as it is. I mean, you are in a safe and bright environment that is protected from the elements, and it’s free! Beyond that, it offers a sense of community where everyone is welcome.

“Once I got into it, I loved it. Mall walking seemed to have it all – no difficult machines to figure out (I’m talking about you, elliptical), no fees, no fuss. You started recognizing the others and before long you got to know them as well. Everyone was encouraging and it fostered a sense of belonging. After just a few days I was even meeting up with a group of ladies afterwards for coffee. A nice reward for our hard work.” – Hayly Tompa

It’s amazing how quickly stereotypes can fall away. When it comes to mall walking, or any activity for that matter, age doesn’t define you or your abilities. There are varying age groups, abilities, personalities and backgrounds, all out there shattering expectations, providing motivation, and creating friendships.

“I was worried mall walking would make me feel old, instead I felt rejuvenated. It was great exercise and exciting to see my improvements. As I continued, I was able to go further, walk faster, and I received a lot of encouragement from the other walkers.” – Hayly Tompa

So, before you go thinking you’re too young, athletic, or cool for mall walking, think again. Some walkers may be slower but they are there, getting exercise and improving. Others are fast with great endurance. The bottom line is, age and ability don’t matter, and they can’t hold you back unless you let them.

Whether you are looking to get some exercise, get out of the house or meet new people, give mall walking a try. It’s welcoming, social and fun!

By Christine Tompa