Losing pounds from your thighs, not your pocket, is the idea behind ''mallercise''. It involves power-walking around shopping centres and marching up stairs and escalators while simultaneously doing a spot of window-shopping. Fans say the advantages of mall-walking include the fact that shopping malls are traffic free, weather resistant and safe. It can also get you reasonably fit. A 30-minute speed walk incorporating some stair climbing and lunges can burn around 200 calories. ''For exercise to be successful in terms of weight loss and improvements in health, it needs to be done regularly,'' says Dr Beckie Lang of the Association for the Study of Obesity.
''It actually doesn't matter where you walk as long you do it, and for many people this may be more accessible than a class at a gym.'' The craze is sweeping the US and Britain, and mall-walking has become such a success that manufacturers now market special ''mall-walker'' shoes ''to give extra traction for smoother, slicker mall floors.'' At the University of Calgary in Canada, physiologists looked at the effects of an eight-week mall-walking programme on health and wellbeing. After two months, results showed that the subjects were walking further and weighed less than when they started. Perhaps more significantly, they displayed high self-motivation, with 63 per cent of subjects mall-walking three or more days a week.
Another Canadian study revealed that shopping malls are the second most popular walking site for people aged 45 and older, with more women likely to choose them as an exercise destination than men. Experts say frequent activity that can be easily incorporated into your lifestyle is most helpful in the battle of the bulge.