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Can Shopping Be Good for Your Health?



In the UK, the focus of this year’s Mental Health Week is on movement. There are many health benefits from added movement, including everyday activities like walking. Most people simply don’t walk enough—and generally, the more you walk, the better.

According to the World Health Organization, lack of physical activity is the fourth most frequent cause of death in the world. It has been found that as little as 4,000 steps a day are needed to reduce deaths from any cause; even fewer are needed to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.

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It’s not just physical health that is improved by walking, but also mental health; in research, walking has been linked to improved mental clarity and the creative flow of ideas. Research also suggests that walking 9,800 steps on a daily basis can lower the risk of dementia by 50 percent.

Shopping may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about walking—but perhaps it should be.

Could Shopping Make You Fit?

In the past, there have been many estimates as to how much walking people do while shopping. Some shopping malls have estimated that people walk around 7 miles on a given visit and a one-hour trip to the supermarket can accumulate as many as 4,000 steps, or approximately 1.9 miles. The latter is, on average, the equivalent of burning around 150 calories.

Before COVID-19, the worldwide average daily number of steps was 5,324. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic resulted in reduced levels of physical activity and it is yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

To some extent, this may be linked to the fact that online shopping vastly increased during the pandemic and has similarly not returned to pre-pandemic levels. But the rise in online shopping means that people are moving less compared to what they would have done if they visited physical stores, and this is set to get worse.

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Currently, there are around five billion internet users around the world, and this is rapidly increasing. With the increase, the number of people buying items online is also going up. This year it is estimated that around $6.3 trillion will be spent on shopping online. With this increasing, the number of steps people take is likely to decrease as well.

Source: Michael Drummond/Pixabay

Physical Shopping Makes It Easier to Get Extra Steps In

For many, being active can seem daunting, especially if they haven’t done it for a while. Add busy lives into the equation and it is easy to see why people put it off.

However, changing from online shopping to physical shopping is relatively easy. It does not require any specific equipment, memberships, or training, and it generally doesn’t cost more than what you would be spending online. (You may even save on shipping costs!)

In the U.S., mall walking has even been promoted to become fitter. This is particularly suited to people who may find it difficult to walk on uneven surfaces, for those who have safety concerns about walking elsewhere, or for those who need access to public toilets. These aspects are all addressed when walking in a shopping mall and can therefore help inactive adults to safely begin a walking program.

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While it may be more beneficial to get steps done outside (as that is also more likely to help with anxiety and depression) walking around in a shopping mall could still offer health benefits simply because it allows people to move. However, for those who are able, conducting their shopping on an outdoor street may be even more beneficial.

The next time you need something, then, instead of reaching for your computer, consider getting out of your seat and visiting a store.

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