Thank goodness for malls.

Shortly after bringing my children to their summer camps each morning, I head to the mall in southeast Baton Rouge to join the mall walkers.

I made a switch in my walking venue after the weather turned sweltering. I used to exercise on park walking paths with my sisters-in-law and my children.

Sometimes I’d trip on areas of uneven concrete or find myself running away from a flying insect or a swarm of gnats.

That doesn’t happen at the mall. There is no heat or humidity to contend with. There is no uneven concrete, and the bugs remain outside.

However, those “sizzling hot summer sale” signs posted in some windows are hard to ignore. In fact, if I pass the same store several times in one week, the sale signs will sometimes drop from 20 to 30 or even 70 percent off.

“Bingo,” I say to myself.

I can’t help paying attention to the difference between mall walkers and mall shoppers.

Moms dressed in shorts and sneakers whisk their baby strollers past department stores and kiosks. They don’t dare stop because they are trying to finish their laps.

A gray-haired woman outfitted in walking shoes and shorts is lifting her head and smiling as she passes another walker who is pressing her earphones to her head and pushing buttons on her iPod.

Several janitors are busily preparing the mall for the onslaught of shoppers, and mall workers are setting up store displays and sales signs.

As the shoppers and the mall walkers begin the merge, I watch and even eavesdrop a bit on what folks are talking about. One man is sitting outside a store and waiting for the manager to interview him.

“I’ve never held a real job before,” the interviewee tells the manager.

I held my breath and thought, “that probably wasn’t the best thing to tell the interviewer.”

As the store doors begin opening and the shoppers are walking in and out of stores with their shopping bags, I’m zooming past them with one thing on my mind: making that mile-long trek through the mall.

My doctor always tells me that 30 minutes a day of walking or some amount of physical activity can improve heart health and help maintain weight.

Other mall walkers have the same idea. Sure, they are enjoying the fantastic climate-controlled conditions and eyeing the sales.

But, more importantly, they are taking the time to address their health and wellness. And all I can say is thank goodness for malls for giving us a cool, comfortable place to do it.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at