The Herald Bulletin

March 18, 2013

This mall was made for walkin’

Mounds Mall is both shopping and fitness center for visitors

By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Eunice McKen probably holds some kind of speed record for window shopping.

She visits Mounds Mall at least six times a week, but rarely buys anything. It’s tough, when every storefront is a blur.

McKen is a mall-walker — a new breed of fitness junkie who prefers food courts to basketball courts.

“I usually try to walk for about an hour,” said McKen, 81, power-walking past Carson’s on her third lap around Mounds. “I believe in staying active, thinking happy thoughts.”

The crowd at Mounds is a little older: usually 30 or so walkers, in their 60s or older. Like McKen’s husband Herb, some readily admit they’re past their physical prime.

“At my age, I’m not free of medical problems,” said Herb, 85. “But exercise helps. When I stop walking, they’ll bury me.”

Up until two years ago, Eunice ran three miles a day, and Herb power-walked eight miles on his 80th birthday (he swears). Over the years, they’ve slowed down a bit, but not much. For proof, try lapping Eunice when she speeds around the mall — odds are, you’ll lose.

But the McKens are outliers. According to a recent physical activity and health report from the U.S. Surgeon General, more than half of Americans don’t get regular exercise.

For some, life gets in the way. For others, it’s rain, snow, sleet and other adverse weather conditions, which is one reason mall-walking has developed such a following.

“We used to only walk outside,” Eunice said. “Here, the temperature’s warm year-round, and there’s no ice, no rain.”

Walking is recommended by many doctors as an easy, low-impact form of exercise with numerous health benefits, including improved circulation and burning fat without losing muscle.

“I know walking helps me keep trim,” said Herb, adding Eunice has a knack for bread-making.

The mall sees a few health benefits too. Walkers, after all, are potential shoppers who might spend money on clothes, kitchen appliances, coffee and whatever the stores happen to be selling.

“It’s really a win-win,” said Braun Roosa, Mounds’ general manager. “They get to walk, and we get traffic.”

Mounds offers a “Mall Cruisers” club for people 55 and older, which meets Thursday mornings. CareOne Homecare Services also provides free blood pressure checks, chair exercises and health clinics, between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. at center court.

The walkers sometimes win prizes, including bright pink club T-shirts, which some proudly sport as they cruise around the mall.

Mounds doesn’t set designated hours for its walkers, but recommends mornings. Mall walkers are welcome most days, but there are obvious exceptions, such as during special events or weather-related closures.

“Sometimes, there’ll be a blizzard outside and they’ll be waiting to get in,” Roosa said. “They really want to walk.”

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter or call 648-4250.