Coral Ridge “mall walkers” a close, active group

BY KATIE HEINE | APRIL 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Mary Boyd Doehrmann clutched the hand of her husband of three years, Marv, as they entered the Coral Ridge Mall. And she didn’t let go for a second until the couple completed their 45-minute walk.

The 84-year-old began “mall walking” at Coral Ridge in 1998, shortly after it opened. And for more than 10 years, Boyd Doehrmann has been strolling past the stores every morning — except for Sundays.

“Everyone needs a day off,” she said, sporting a fanny pack around her waist.

Exercisers have been hiking through Coral Ridge Mall since it opened, whether it be for safety reasons, convenience, or a chance to socialize.

Mall general manager Monica Nadeau said the number of walkers has remained consistent throughout the years.

“They’re a very tightly knit group,” said Nadeau, who has been at Coral Ridge for 13 years.

Nadeau said mall officials try to interact with them at least once a week, as the walkers are “great ambassadors” for the mall.

“If I ever need any marketing, they’re the ones to tell,” she said.

Jan Underwood and her husband, Don, moved to Iowa City about 10 years ago from their small farm in Richland, Iowa. They didn’t know anyone in the area, Underwood said, but that changed when they decided to tour the mall early one morning 10 years ago.

Today, the Underwoods have a group of about 30 fellow walkers they consider to be their “core of best friends.” And they met all of them at the mall.

“We didn’t have time to be social on the farm,” the 73-year-old said. “This is just a joy for us.”

Though Underwood has a partial prosthetic leg after losing it in a grain auger 44 years ago, she still walks at least one lap a day. Then she rests and waits for others to join her at Panera for coffee.

The Underwoods faithfully saunter through the mall six days a week, and stop by on Sunday after church.

“It’s a routine,” she said. “It sets your day, and if we don’t do it, we miss it.”

One of the main reasons Underwood said they continue to exercise at the mall is because people are always around in the case of a health emergency. Defibrillators are also scattered throughout the mall, which Underwood said is comforting.

With more than 100 stores, Coral Ridge Mall provides walkers with a long, unbroken path. Most walkers follow the outskirts of the mall — which is about a mile, said Nadeau. But Les Weber adds an extra loop at the “crossroads” between Younkers and JCPenney.

The 84-year-old has been making his rounds at the mall five days a week for the past five years. It takes Weber 17 minutes to walk his 1 1/2 mile route, and he said he aims for about an hour of exercise each time.

As a retired family doctor, Weber said mall walking is a great aerobic activity that helps improve circulation. And he has no intentions of stopping anytime soon.

“I’ll keep on walking until I can’t,” he said.

Regular exercise is increasingly important as people age, said Dimitra Mihalopoulos, assistant wellness coordinator at Oaknoll, an adult retirement community.

Walking is a preferable option for older exercisers because it isn’t overly stressful on the body, she said, and it helps maintain balance and flexibility.

“It’s way more enjoyable than jumping on a treadmill,” she said.

Though retail stores don’t open until 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, Target and Panera open at 8 a.m., and Barb Stein takes advantage of both.

Every Tuesday morning, Stein and three of her female friends meet at the mall at 7:15 a.m. And for the past three years, the retired librarians walk a few rounds, have breakfast at Panera, and then shop at Target.

“When we come, it’s an event,” the 64-year-old said.

The four women use their time to catch up and chat about good books they’re reading, Stein said, and she wouldn’t miss the outing for anything — well, almost anything.

“I look forward to it,” said Stein. “I wouldn’t miss it unless I had a colonoscopy.”

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