We had to walk fast to keep up with Basia Belza the other day. Most of our walking was backwards as we shot footage of her walking forward. We caught up with her at Bellevue Square Mall before the shops opened.
She walks fast.
The professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing is the author of a 48-page Mall Walking guide published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Newsweek did an article about the walking guide and the benefits of walking in malls.
"The guide is to help malls establish mall walking programs," Belsa said. "Malls are really having to reinvent themselves. Because of all the online shopping people do, malls have to re-craft why people come here. And what better way than to exercise."
Get healthy, meet up with friends, and then go shopping. That's the idea. The walkers at Bellevue Square Mall meet three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 8-9:30 a.m. The program, called Walk for Life, is run by Overlake Hospital Medical Center and has about 160 active members.
Bill Tamura figures he's walked 12,000 miles in malls in the last quarter century. He's walked another 4,000 miles outdoors. The twelve thousand miles is like walking across the country, back and forth. Twice. Bill is 89.
We also met Lucille, as she was walking. The 88-year-old has been walking in malls for about 15 years. All this walking is keeping her in good shape, but she points out it's not all about the exercise.
"You know what, it's the people," she told us. "You make friends here. You want go and make sure your friends are here. That's what keeps you coming here. Just the fact that you made friends here."
Lucille and Bill and all the others we met say they try not to miss a day. We couldn't help but notice the spring in their step and the good shape they are in.
"Yeah, for an old lady I am," Mutsu Okada laughed as she delivered the line.
She's about to turn 90. It turns out, of all the exercises you can do, walking has the lowest dropout rate of them all, especially if you find someone to walk with. The walkers we met have found those "someones." It's what keeps them going and walking in malls.