With more and more Filipinos being diagnosed with diabetes, the goal is to encourage people to take preventive action to reduce the risk of developing the chronic disease. Regular physical activity, aside from adopting a healthier diet, is crucial to achieve this.

But unlike other countries where parks and other outdoor spaces are easily accessible to encourage physical activities, the Philippines has a severe shortage of these areas. However, it does not lack in malls.

The answer lies in adapting to environmental modifications, in this case, utilizing walk-friendly amenities like shopping malls.

There are currently 6 million FIlipinos with diabetes, according to the Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation. The numbers, the PCDEF warned, could double in the next two decades.

Regular, moderate physical activity like walking pushes muscles to work harder and use more glucose for energy. Over time, this helps lower blood sugar levels as well as making insulin work better in the body. The result is lowered risk for developing diabetes and its complications.

Dr Iris Thiele Isip-Tan, an Endocrinologist who set up her practice at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), put emphasis on the creation of more parks and mall-walking friendly areas, alongside addressing the food culture in preventing diabetes.

Mall-walking

“We need to do more about the environment. We don’t have [that many] parks to walk in. Mall-walking may not be ideal because of food restaurants, but it’s the safest place to walk because the areas are guarded and well-lighted,” Dr Isip-Tan told MIMS in an interview.

Mall-walking, essentially, is walking within mall complexes. Mall walkers may enter the mall an hour or two earlier before stores open for the public. Walkers are only going to use the premises for walking.

It is good to note, however, that, many malls in the country are increasingly incorporating outdoor amenities - such as gardens - within the mall complex and wider sidewalks built for the visitors to walk comfortably on.

No special equipment needed

Mall-walking is primarily associated with brisk walking - which not only lowers the risk for diabetes, but also heart disease, stroke and some cancers, according to University of California Berkeley Wellness.

Walking, foremost, requires no equipment to get started, and it can be done by everybody and of all ages. Even those with arthritis can engage in the activity as it doesn’t put much stress on joints.

And while being generally regarded as good for the body, brisk walking has been found to be better than running in reducing heart diseases. Running reduced heart diseases risks by 4.5 percent while walking does it by 9.3 percent, according to a study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The risk of developing diabetes was reduced by 12 percent by running and walking, according to the same study.

The American College of Sports Medicine and American Diabetes Association, meanwhile, jointly recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.

Considering all these, however, Dr Isip-Tan noted in one of her Social Media posts that people wanting to walk outdoors or exercise outside may still be discouraged by inclement weather.

Complaints include the ground being slippery when it rains, and where water rise in certain areas, walkers are at risk of leptospirosis. This is where malls have the advantage.

Adapting to the environment to still get in adequate physical activity

Adapting to the environment to still get in adequate physical activity

The pros of mall-walking

In the United States, mall-walking is so prevalent that the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a guide.

Mall-walking, it said, prevents a number of physical activity barriers such as weather. Further, malls are typically temperature-controlled indoor environments regardless of the outdoor weather. The Philippines has wet and dry seasons, not summer. The rainy season starts in June and runs all the way to November.

Malls have level surface, as opposed to different terrains encountered outdoors - if going for areas with uneven grounds. Such surfaces lower the risk for injury. Malls also have security staff and/or programme leaders for walking programmes.

Importantly, clean and well-lit restrooms are always available within mall complex.

On another note, mall-walkers and programme leaders should know where first aid kit and emergency equipment are located, as well as access to route maps for mall-walkers. MIMS

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