Toronto mall walking club helps seniors stay active

Most seniors recognize the importance of staying physically active, but it can sometimes be difficult for them to do so. A variety of different obstacles may be in the way, from poor weather to a lack of available facilities, but a group of retirement communities recently teamed up with several Toronto malls to provide seniors with an opportunity to exercise, The Grid recently reported.

Early morning walkers
The exercise group, known as the Walk Our Way Walking Club, meets twice a week from October through June at malls throughout the Toronto area before the shops open. One group, which hosts its twice-weekly walks at the Centerpoint Mall, is sponsored by a trio of Chartwell retirement living communities - Chartwell Lansing, Chartwell Constantia and Chartwell Gibson. Organizers hope It gives seniors the perfect opportunity to get some exercise without having to worry about dangerous ice or uncomfortable heat that might typically discourage them from going for a walk.

Chartwell also sponsors breakfasts three times a year to recognize members who pay $10 a year and are staples of the early-morning walks. For Kit Seelenmayer, the club has grown to be about more than just physical health.

“People often come for the fitness, but end up forming friendships,” Seelenmayer, who started coming to the mall in 1999, told the news source. “You just start walking and, the next thing you know, you’re talking to someone and then that becomes the person you’re walking with each day.”

Social benefits abound
It’s no secret that a group like Walk Our Way offers physical benefits. Walking has proven to be one of the best exercises for seniors, and might even be an effective way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to recent studies. Most notably, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health found that exercise regimens could considerably improve brain fitness.

But while there are undoubtedly physical health advantages to the walking club, the social aspect may be the most important characteristic, as there are considerable benefits to socialization. In 2012, scientists from Statistics Canada found that socialization may be one of the most significant factors in quality of life for older adults. Seniors who were more socially active had better self-perceived health, fewer feelings of loneliness and better satisfaction with everyday life.

“The results of this analysis highlight the importance of frequent social participation to maintaining quality of life,” study leader Heather Gilmour wrote.