group was extremely social, jovial and energetic. One group ofthree men relentlessly flirted with a group of three women,who were somewhat reserved (but quite happy for theattention). The three men had been walking at the mall for thepast 15 years. Each lived in a town outside of Burlington, andthey all drove about 15-25 minutes to get to the mall everymorning, because they knew their friends were there waitingfor them and they didn't want to disappoint.This social magnet is an important factor in the popularity ofthe mall walking program in Burlington. The social support ofmall walking has led to the longevity of the program. While itis often easy to pull people into trying a new activity,maintaining large groups of repeat participants can be muchmore difficult. The social magnet in the case of the Burlingtonmall is so strong that some senior citizens walk at the mallyear round. I spoke to a few walkers who walked less at themall during the warm weather, and walked in neighborhoodsor parks near their home. However, several walkers that Ispoke with (those who were having coffee) continue to go to theBurlington Mall because it is where all their friends are.Rather than walk outdoors near their homes, it is important forthem to be part of a walking social group. Some of them walkoutside the mall, in the parking lot, to get fresh air when theweather is warm, which was surprising as the parking lotseems like a very uncomfortable place to walk, a sea of asphaltwith no real views.Not all walkers come to the mall for a social purpose. Althoughthe majority of walkers are senior citizens walking in groups,there is also a smaller group of women between the ages of 25and 45 who usually walk alone. Some walkers were there withbaby strollers as well. One particular woman was on a weightloss program and had been walking three times a week at themall before going to work. She chose to walk at the mallbecause it was free, warm, and convenient. She enjoyedwalking with other people and had a friend who wouldsometimes accompany her although she did not reach out tothe other walkers at the mall. She was quite friendly butclearly on a mission to follow the perimeter closely in order tomeet her distance goal for the morning. A full lap around themall is equivalent to 0.85 miles and she did not want to cheatherself by avoiding corners and walking less than her goal.Walkers at the mall had very few complaints about theprogram. The only two complaints were in regards to the
stopping of escalator service in the morning hours and thetemperature on the second floor of the mall--both money savingattempts by management. There are ample stairs, as well aselevators, so the walkers' reaction to the stopping of theescalator service may have been a general opposition to anycutbacks in the program, rather than a real interest in usingthese amenities.