Malls Welcome Walkers Inside For Winter

They come, seeking shelter. When the doors open at seven, they are waiting to walk the mall.

Walker Lamar Crawford explains, "There are times when the weather is rather inclement, and it's more comfortable to walk inside."

Lamar and his wife Mildred have been getting their exercise at the mall for six years. The Knowles family came inside five years ago, and Tom Knowles says, "We walked in the neighborhood, and too many, too cold, too wet."

"Too many dogs," he clarifies.

They're not alone. They come by the dozens to take advantage of the mall's offer. Bullard resident Sandy Swain decided to go to the mall a few months ago.

"There's a lot of security here," she says. "It's better than walking on the street. And just the camaraderie with the other walkers in the mall. You can meet them and make new friends. It's just a nice friendly atmosphere here."

In fact, the early morning walkers have formed heir own little neighborhood, making friends with the people they see daily.

"Again and again," Mildred Crawford says, "People say how did you meet that person, where do you know that person?"

"I met them in the mall," she says.

For these dedicated walkers, the rewards are many. Sandy says, "I feel much more energized after I walk because then I go to work and I have more energy throughout the day from walking. I can tell a big difference on the days I don't walk."

So every morning, they still get their exercise. They just come inside.

The malls in Tyler and Longview both open for mall walkers Monday through Saturday at seven o'clock. That's a full three hours before the stores open to give everybody time to get their exercise.

Reid Kerr reporting