The first ever resource guide for the “sport” of mall walking was recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Developed in partnership with researchers from West Virginia University, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Alaska Anchorage, the project was led by researchers at the University of Washington Health Promotion Resource Center.

The goal of the resource guide is to encourage the development of mall walking programs by providing readers with information about the health benefits of walking, explaining why mall walking programs can help people move more, and providing practical strategies for starting and maintaining walking programs in malls or other venues in areas where a mall is not available.

Dina L. Jones, P.T., Ph.D., associate professor of orthopedics at the WVU School of Medicine and co-author of the resource guide, said it is important because it demonstrates that walking programs can be successfully implemented and utilized by walkers of all ages, even in a rural state like West Virginia.

“Having access to safe pedestrian-friendly environments, whether in a mall or other venue, can help people overcome some of the traditional barriers they face when wanting to walk for exercise, such as inclement weather, concerns with neighborhood safety or difficulty traversing hilly or uneven terrain,” Dr. Jones said. “As our population ages in West Virginia, it is critical that people are active enough to attain the health benefits associated with leading a physically active lifestyle. Walking is a simple and free way to achieve this goal.”

The information in the guide is based on a review of research on mall walking programs; environmental audits of malls and other venues with walking programs; and, interviews conducted with walkers, program leaders and managers in malls and other venues with walking programs. 

Three malls in West Virginia participated in the project and are highlighted in the guide. The guide contains photos and mall walking program materials from the Charleston Town Center Mall in Charleston (pages 38-39), photos of the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport (pages 3 and 8), and a photo (page 5) and description (pages 23-24) of the mall walking program at the Mountaineer Mall in Morgantown.

The guide is a helpful tool for mall managers who want to start or enhance a mall walking program and for others who want to partner with their community mall to either start a walking program or use an existing one. These can include aging services providers, community coalitions, work site managers, public health professionals, hospitals and healthcare providers. 

For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/downloads/mallwalking-guide.pdf.