Toronto (Feb. 25, 2001) - If you visit the Promenade Shopping Centre in Thornhill at 8 a.m., two hours before the mall's official opening, you'll see about 100 people already inside. Rather than strolling along window-shopping, these people walk with a purpose. They are the regular mall-walkers. Many of them are former patients of Toronto Rehab’s leading Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

Mall walking is a growing phenomenon at most shopping malls across the country and Toronto Rehab endorses this method of exercise as a safe approach to stay heart-healthy. To celebrate National Heart Month, members of Toronto Rehab’s Cardiac Rehab team will join the mall walkers to demonstrate proper walking techniques and stretches and to discuss the many benefits of mall walking.

Dr. Gaetan Tardif, Vice President of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at Toronto Rehab, said, "The benefits of mall walking are numerous. The mall is climate-controlled so walkers do not have to worry about wind, rain, snow, ice and heat. Traffic is not a factor. This is especially helpful in suburban communities where sidewalks are not necessarily accessible."

"The walking surface in the mall is good because it is flat and even, which is not always true of roads and trails. Smooth surfaces can cut down on the potential for injury," said Dr. Tardif.

Dr. Tardif added, "The social aspect of mall walking is a good motivator to continue exercising…it's a bit of peer pressure. It's more difficult to get up and go when you’re on your own. And of course continuing exercise is what is most important in preventing new cardiac events."

Hy Gorelick started the mall walking group at the Promenade Shopping Centre after graduating from Toronto Rehab's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. "While at Toronto Rehab, I learned that it is important to adopt and maintain heart-healthy habits for our entire lives…that is why I started the mall walking group at the Promenade," said Mr. Gorelick. He vows that mall walking has made a positive difference in his health.

Mr. Gorelick added, "One of the greatest aspects of being a part of the mall walking group is the social interaction. We are all like one big walking family." The Promenade’s doors are opened at 6:00 a.m. to accommodate the mall walkers. As well, music is turned on earlier and increased cleaning, maintenance and security are all put into place.

Toronto Rehab's Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Program recently received $530,000 in new funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to expand services to coordinate and evaluate access and delivery of cardiac rehabilitation services in Ontario.

The new funds will enable Toronto Rehab to increase the number of people admitted to its Cardiac Rehab Program each year. Currently about 1,600 patients a year are admitted to the outpatient program located at Toronto Rehab's Rumsey Centre. By 2003, admissions are expected to increase by about 25% to approximately 2,000 a year.

Toronto Rehab's pioneering Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Program is North America's largest outpatient cardiac rehab program for people recovering from various forms of heart disease and/or surgery - including heart transplantation. Almost 25,000 patients have been treated since the program was established in 1968.

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