9 Ways to Exercise at the Mall

When winter hits and walking outside becomes too cold for comfort, it can be too easy to skip exercise and curl up on the couch to weather winter. Not so fast: With this easy (and free) mall exercise plan, you can continue to walk off weight all winter long. Even if you’re not a mall rat, you’ll find that if you time it right and do the proper moves, you can get fit in the same place you shop. Here’s how to make it fun and effective.

  • Walk With Friends With Fitness

    When you exercise with a group, you’re more likely to follow through with everyday exercise plans because you’re accountable to someone else. “Walking at the mall is free, and when you are talking to friends, you are not focused on the time, which makes you likely to walk for longer and burn more calories,” says Carlos Woods, an NFL strength and conditioning coach and sports performance specialist.

  • Get Their Early

    You’re going to get the best, most effective walking mall workout if you beat the shopping crowd. Plus, working out in the morning has been shown to boost your metabolism, and add other health benefits. Find out when the stores start to open at your local mall, and make a plan to get there ahead of time. “If the mall is crowded, it acts a little more like an obstacle course and may be difficult to walk quickly enough due to obstructions,” explains Michele Melkerson-Granryd, a fitness coach for the Arthritis Foundation. “Going early would be a way to ensure a quality exercise experience.”

  • Park Further Away

    Even when you’re going somewhere to workout, using this old fitness trick is an easy way to add more time (and walking) to your mall workout routine. “We all have the instinct to find the closest parking spot as if that is some kind of prize,” Woods says. “However, the real prize is the health benefits gained by taking the opportunity to burn a few extra calories by just taking a short walk.”

  • Find the Stairs For Fitness

    To add even greater calorie burn to a mall workout — and anytime you’re walking the mall for shopping purposes — find the mall’s stairs and put them to good use. “Climbing stairs is one of the best and easiest forms of cardio, calorie burning, and muscle toning,” notes Woods. “Ditch the elevator and the escalator, and opt for the stairs. It’s healthier, and the extra weight of the packages you may be carrying is an added calorie-burning bonus.”

  • Use The Benches

    Benches aren’t just for sitting: As part of your mall workout, use an empty bench for a quick strength-training routine. A mall bench can easily provide the same function as a dedicated weight-training bench at the gym for targeting your upper body, and doing push-ups and triceps dips. “Any type of strength training burns twice as many calories as cardio,” Woods says. “You can make up fun routines like walking each level and hitting every other bench or every third bench for dips and push-ups.”

  • Carry Some Weight

    Enhance a mall workout by purchasing handheld weights to supercharge your walking routine. “Walking weights are small investments with a huge return because they allow you to work multiple muscle groups at once,” says Woods. “You can do bicep curls, shoulder presses, lateral raises, and triceps extensions while walking and lunging.” Lunges are another simple way to add an extra calorie burn and muscle building to the average mall-walking program, says Woods. Plus you’ll tone up your lower body fast.

  • Set Benchmarks

    Motivation can be a challenge no matter where you do your everyday exercise. To keep up your interest in a mall workout program, set distance goals for yourself as you’re walking. “Create markers such as every other store or lunging a certain distance until you reach a certain landmark like the restroom or the food court,” Woods advises. “Accomplishing small goals like these helps keep you motivated and invested in your long-term health plan.”

  • Listen To Music

    A surefire way to keep yourself walking at a brisk and calorie-burning pace is to listen to motivating music on your iPod. “Research has shown that listening to music while exercising increases the comfort of exercise and encourages more vigorous activity,” explains Melkerson-Granryd. Create special playlists for your mall workout and rotate them so the selection doesn’t become stale.

  • Reward Yourself

    If you spend a good portion of the morning burning big-time calories as part of a mall workout fitness plan, you deserve a little reward for your winter exercise efforts. “It’s a great idea to give yourself incentives,” Woods says. “Say that you will purchase a new dress or suit after you’ve completed a month’s worth of walks. As you walk by the stores, you can even window-shop to get ideas.” You can also curb impulsive spending by forcing yourself to wait to make a purchase until you hit your goal. “You can also monitor how much weight or inches you are losing because each month you will hopefully be buying a smaller size,” Woods adds.