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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Walking the mall

Jennifer Larue Correspondent

It would be safe to say that one of the things many people have on their New Year’s list is to get in shape.

Business booms the first few months of the year for health clubs, gyms, and diet centers. The Valley Mall booms as well, even before the stores open.

On the benefits of exercise, President Thomas Jefferson said “the sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise and of all the exercises walking is the best.”

Mall walkers, striders, or crawlers, whatever they may call themselves, agree that walking has benefited them greatly. In the Valley Mall, a complete circle of both the upper and lower floor totals a mile. Monday through Sunday, from 6 to 10 a.m., hundreds make the rounds.

Buck Geiger has been walking the mall for more than five years, at least two miles a day, Monday through Friday. “I get good physicals,” said Geiger.

Kathy Cunningham, a retired physical education teacher, walks with her friend Sara. Having a friend with her helps the time go quickly with good conversation. Cunningham also walks during regular mall hours. When former students recognize her, she is pleased to be setting a good example. “It is important,” she said, “to encourage an active lifestyle.”

The mall has even terrain and a good climate. There are stairs for a heavier workout, and many places to sit. Though many walk trails in the summer, the mall is a safe and convenient alternative. “For people with medical conditions or small children, the mall is ideal,” said Cunningham, “medical aid or a bathroom would be right around the corner.”

Sisters Ina Grunwald and Carol Schjodt said their doctors push them to keep walking. They walk four miles a day, along with an early exercise class at the YMCA on Monday and Wednesday.

Dorothy Grier and Lily Shiosaki walk with Grunwald and Schjodt, all at an age when aches and pains become the norm. Still, they walk with confidence and speed. “I’d hate to think of what it would be like if we didn’t do this,” Grier said.

The average age of the walkers is about 65, but younger steppers take advantage of the mall during the cold season. Jenny, 25, pushes her two boys, 3 and 1, in a stroller. She walks a couple of miles a day, and has already lost the weight she gained while pregnant.

“In the summer, I walk outside. The fresh air is good for the boys. I carry Mace and a stick.” In the mall, she doesn’t need that protection.

Brenda Buckingham has recently started home-schooling her son Dustin, 13. She said that coming to the mall is easy. “The walk,” said Buckingham, “is a good way to start the morning, and a good way to talk to each other.” She hopes to see other mothers walking with their children.

Lesa Berry, Marketing Manager of the Valley Mall, has the same wish. Berry donated 150 pedometers to the YMCA Fitness for Youth Program.

Jana Young, youth fitness coordinator for the YMCA, will use the pedometers for the 10,000 Plus Step Challenge where kids are challenged to take 10,000 steps a day (about five miles). “It’s important,” said Young, “to teach kids about exercise. We live in a sedentary society, but the body has a use it or lose it philosophy. We need to teach them to use it.”

Something to think about when starting walking program, besides a good stretching routine, is this quote from 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

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