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Mall walkers out in force at start of year

Mall walkers out in force at start of year

NILES — Deborah Rudloff and Bett Nisbett having been walking together for more than 20 years, and for the past six months have been walking Tuesday mornings at the Eastwood Mall.

“We come all the way to Niles because it’s so wonderful,” Rudloff said of the mall.

She said she and Nisbett walk to bond and to take some time away from their cellphones.

Since August 2005, when St. Joe’s at the Mall was established as a community outreach of Mercy Health, doors at the Eastwood Mall have opened daily at 7:30 a.m. to accommodate mall walkers. Most retail stores in the mall open at 10 a.m.

“The mall has always been very accommodating to mall walkers,” Shirley Lisk, manager of St. Joe’s at the Mall, said.

St. Joe’s wanted the mall to have something more organized for mall walkers, she said. Originally, registered walkers were given pedometers and encouraged to track their steps and meet goals for incentives. Now, most walkers simply fill out a liability form with St. Joe’s and do laps at their own discretion, but that hasn’t slowed down the walking.

Rudloff and Nisbett said Tuesday that they regularly see a steady stream of walkers in the halls.

“It’s a constant parade,” Rudloff said.

The pair met golfing years ago, used to walk outside at 6 a.m. with a larger group, but now start a little later and walk together or alone at the mall, usually doing three or four laps around — which equates to about the same number of miles.

“If you do all the nooks and crannies, it’s just over a mile,” said Lisk — though that will be changing with the addition of the superstore Boscovs, which will truncate the former Sears hallway.

Walkers come in at various times of the day, but tend to stay consistent, she said. Most walk in the morning, but others come in the afternoon when stores are open.

“Over the years, mall walkers have their own dedicated time frames,” Lisk said. She said the weather changes the number of people, with more walkers appearing in the winter months when it’s cold.

NOT JUST FOR RETIREES

At the Southern Park Mall in Boardman, doors open at 9 a.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday for mall walkers, according to mall general manager Brian Gabbert.

“We probably see between 100 and 200 people a day,” said Gabbert, though he said the walkers aren’t actually counted. “Most are morning folks, but we’ve got people that come in all day long.”

Gabbert, who has managed several other malls in Michigan, North Carolina and Akron, said local mall walkers have defied his expectations based on previous experience.

“Most of the malls I’ve been at, it’s primarily older folks. That’s not the case here. We have a whole variety. We have folks that work an afternoon or midnight shift and come in before work, we have women who push strollers,” Gabbert said. “It’s not just for retirees anymore.”

Lisk said the average age of morning walkers at the Eastwood Mall runs around 65 to 68 — with some 90-year-olds walking as well — but younger people often come in the afternoon.

PROGRAMS

Both local malls participate in the “Walk with a Doc” program, a monthly event in which doctors give short presentations on different health topics, and then do a lap or two with mall walkers. The program was started in 2005 in Columbus by Dr. David Sabgir and has now expanded throughout the country, according to Mercy Health’s website.

Southern Park’s “Walk with a Doc” is through a partnership with Youngstown State University’s physical therapy department and has been going on for about a year. The free event is held 9 a.m. the last Thursday of the month, with the next scheduled for Feb. 27.

At the Eastwood Mall, “Walk with a Doc,” is organized through St. Joe’s at the Mall, which is now located near JCPenney, and starts at 8 a.m. on the first Friday of every month.

Other free or low-cost programs available at St. Joe’s at the Mall include chair yoga, cardio classes, body fat screenings and balance classes, among others. A complete list of activities is available online at the St. Joe’s at the Mall website or at the front desk of St. Joe’s at the Mall.

Recently, the morning Zumba class outgrew its space inside St. Joe’s and moved into the hallway in the Target concourse, which caused the dance exercise class to pick up even more participants, according to Zumba teacher Tina Sams.

“I call them my sunshine class — it’s like always having an instant ray of sunshine,” Sams said.

She said the class typically runs from 25 to 40 people. It is $20 per month or $3 per class, or free for SilverSneakers members.

STAYING ACTIVE

But why is staying active important?

Rudloff and Nisbett said they believe the benefit of walking is in feeling healthy.

“It’s vital to feeling good,” Nisbett said.

“The role models in our lives have been active ladies,” Rudloff said. She said she spent her childhood on a chicken farm in Portage County. “We grew up outside being active.”

Lisk said walking in particular is good for strengthening the heart and improving lower body strength, which in turns improves posture. According to the American Heart Association, research has linked walking to decreased chances of developing heart disease. Walking also can help to improve blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol and increase energy and stamina.

“And there’s no cost to it. You just start walking,” Lisk said.

She said beginner mall walkers shouldn’t fell compelled to complete the whole circuit if they find it difficult. Setting a goal for one corridor and taking breaks are great ways to ease into mall walking, she said.

Rudloff said first-time walkers should wear comfortable shoes, and should pick their own speed.

“Don’t be intimidated by people who walk really fast,” Rudloff said.

“And you have to go the right way,” Nisbett said. “I heard there were some older ladies — they used to yell at people going the wrong way.”

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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