When was the last time you walked through a mall?
According to experts, it’s been a long time. Too long, in fact. Experts predict that in this year alone, more than 8,600 stores could close, and many of them the brand-name anchor outlets. It’s no secret that the appeal of online shopping has redefined how Americans fill their closets and cupboards. But along with the rise of couch shopping and buying while barefoot, cases of depression, obesity, anxiety, and other health conditions related to a sedentary lifestyle are on the rise.
The solution? Combine the need for physical exercise with the benefits of retail therapy. Here are five ways hitting the mall can lead you to a healthier life along with some great deals.
1. Get Some Exercise
Whether it’s a brisk January morning or a balmy day in July, it’s always climate controlled at the local mall, which makes it a great choice for exercise. If you view yourself as a casual window shopper or one who is committed to daily fitness goals, thousands of mall walkers take advantage of this open space every day.
As an added benefit, many malls host a mall walking program, or they may open their doors early for walkers to use on their own time. “Daily exercise is important for everyone, especially seniors,” said Tonya Fisher, executive director at Bainbridge Island Health and Rehabilitation. “The benefits of even moderate physical activity improve muscle strength, reduces anxiety, maintains healthy joints and bones, and can help reduce high blood pressure.”
2. Relieves Stress
Let’s face it. There is nothing relaxing about drumming up mountains of debt. But the act of window shopping and strolling through an atmosphere teeming with pleasant smells and music and lights has a positive effect on a person’s stress levels. “When we’re under stress, we react to shopping differently,” says Elizabeth Scott, MS. “Just as we may naturally crave sweets to lift our moods, and as we respond positively to other pleasures in life, people tend to feel stronger impulses to buy themselves treats for a mood boost when stressed.” Scott added that if done in moderation and within your means, small treats can be mood-lifters that don’t bring lasting debt.
3. Creates Sensory Stimulation
Retailers have made it their business to create a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere for customers. And it’s this environment where in-store shopping has the advantage over online. “It takes a lot of work for retail brands to deliver a remarkable experience. It can be done, however, by making sure the environment touches each of the five senses,” says Steve Starr, an expert in retail design. It’s no coincidence that shoppers respond to the fruity, sensual smells of candles or lotions, the bold colors of an athletic shoe store, or the edgy sounds creeping from a shop carrying the latest bold clothing trends.
4. Enjoy Free Entertainment
As more mall retailers struggle to find ways to attract customers, many focus on entertainment, recreational, high-end culinary options and new retail concepts rather than relying solely on shopping. “According to projections, approximately 20-25 percent of U.S. shopping malls will close by 2022,” says Business Insider contributor Daniel Keyes. “So malls are getting inventive to avoid this fate.” Many properties are exploring pop-up shops for exclusive online sites, bowling alleys, residential units on or near the premises, and live entertainment. Live and promotional events appeal to the emerging generations of retailers who are more accustomed to online shopping but are slowly discovering the appeal of in-store shopping.
5. Enhances Mood
When Corrine Stokoe, founder of the successful blog Mint Arrow, gave birth to her first baby, she controlled the early signs of postpartum depression by bundling up her new baby and walking through the malls and retail stores. Her daily habit of spotting good deals is the foundation of her site that combines finding deals with fashion. “I loved getting out of the house and window shopping, especially during the cold winter months” said Corrine.
Studies have found that shopping activates the pleasure centers of the brain, those that release the feel-good chemical dopamine. “What’s interesting, though, is that dopamine tends to surge with the anticipation of experience more than the actual act,” says Lauren Gelman. “Which is why window shopping or bargain hunting can be so satisfying.”
Experts say the golden age of mall retail has lost its shimmer, and that’s a tragedy. The benefits of frequenting the walls of a retail store or shopping mall extend beyond the realm of fulfilling the items on a shopping list. In-store shopping is good for your health.
A version of this article was published by the Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.