Are Mall Walkers An Answer To Healthcare Crisis?

Thursday I happened to take a break from work and decided that I needed to get a bit of exercise. I didn’t feel like going to the gym, plus I knew I had a few calls to conduct business. Then I remembered all of those people walking in the mall.


So yes, I decided to kick it like the other retirees and go mall walking. I had my phone in hand, my ear buds in ear, listening to my music, in the comfort of my local mall. (I live in WI so it is way too cold to walk outside -12 with windchill)

Since I had my Fitbit with me I decided to see how many steps I would log within the first lap. To my astonishment, it was near 2000 steps. Sweet, if I make 5-6 laps I can get in my 10,000 steps for the day, get some work done, and feel good about myself.


I noticed that there is an entire community of people that come to the mall just to walk. The people are almost defined by where they park, where they begin their walk/exercise, and then where they all congregate at the end to discuss the previous evening over coffee. People know one another by name.

There are those that are retired, there are the mom groups, there was me, the outlier, and a group of children with downs syndrome. Everyone is getting their exercise, talking, and joining in a healthy activity.

I began to think, what makes all of these various people come to the mall? Is it the location? Is it scenery? Is it the right distance for laps? Is it the convenience of having restrooms, food, drinks, and stores if there is something you forgot? Or are the groups of people that come to the mall to walk, just motivated by something else?

More importantly, what would it take to motivate other people in the community to come and walk? To come and get their daily dose of fitness and exercise?


I know when I go to Target, I have a card that takes the money directly out of my bank account and gives me a 5% discount. (yeah I technically do not pay tax on my items) If I turn and go to Best Buy, I have a rewards card that earns me points that I can use later on in the year towards other items. Banana Republic gives me discounts to buy more bow ties. They will also give me points towards additional rewards throughout the year. Macy’s does the same. Lids has a points system. So does Build A Bear, American Eagle, Gap, Gloria Jeans, Hallmark, and the majority of every other store. Hey wait, the mall even has a discount card too.

So is there something the mall community could do together to promote improved health and additional opportunities to sell more items?

rewardsWhat if the mall was to expand their rewards program to those that come to the mall and walk? If you walk 10K steps in a day you receive a small number of points. If you walk 3 days in a row, you get a bonus; if you walk the entire week, even a bigger bonus.

What if you come with a group of people, and together as a team you walk 100K steps in a week? Or perhaps devise challenges that allow individuals and teams to compete with one another to attain certain number of steps, days in a row, milestones?

Then the points can be used to make additional purchases for food, beverages, gift cards, home goods, exercise equipment, produce and vegetables, clothing, or electronics? The healthier the item the less number of points it takes to purchase. The less healthier an item, the more number of points it takes?

What if there are hidden achievements that as you walk by a store for the 50th time you get something you never expected? You feel compelled to walk into the store to claim it, the store has another opportunity to potentially sell you something else?

Could this be a win-win?

Now, what if the local healthcare system also partners in this? I as a consumer and participant know share my exercise and effort with my healthcare provider. I go to Target to get my blood pressure taken and reported. If I stop at Walgreens to get my annual check up and flu vaccine, then I get additional rewards. Perhaps if I need to go to the doctor I can use my points as an offset towards my deductible?

Could this be a step to share incentives with the community to make better choices, become more healthy, and reduce healthcare costs while still boosting the local economy?

Could this be a story on how communities truly work together for the common good of all its residents? Could it be so simplistic that it doesn’t feel like working out, but rather a day with friends?

I am a dreamer, but dreams do come true in stories.

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek


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7 responses to “Are Mall Walkers An Answer To Healthcare Crisis?

  1. Good public health intervention idea Andy. Getting a community, residents, businesses, and Heath care providers, to award, receive and redeem points is definitely a win-win. Would it be ok if I used your idea and tried to implement in my community?

    • Andrea
      Feel free to take the idea and concept and run with it. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you with taking or moving the idea forward as well. I’d love to see if it goes anyplace and if it does, how to broadcast the best practice for all to see/learn from it.


  2. We had a sort of fitness program at my previous employer with pedometers, weight-loss contests, healthy tips, etc. All it takes is one person to spearhead something like that and run with it. I had forgotten about mall-walking until this post; I really should check into that. Right now the weather is perfect for outside walking, but summer with 100+ highs is going to be brutal!

  3. At my dad’s work (he works in healthcare) they can have a membership to their on-site fitness center taken out of their paycheck. The more times they visit the center, the lower their payment. I think that is a pretty cool incentive program!

  4. I was fighting against a cancer stage 4.I think it is very important that family support to win, because i was very weak;really helped me participate in one group of affected by cancer, so my mood improved, also helped me a lot a medical adviser in (they are doctors),this is important .I recomended not surrender, because sometimes the first treatment does not work as me, and sometimes change doctors it is necessary.Read positive thinking books gave me more energy.During my cancer,i changed my diet,now i eat vegetarian organic food(now i not eat meat).I think is a set of things that help.

  5. Excellent ideas! My go-to indoor walking spot is IKEA. I got that store dialed!

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