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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Everyone is looking for a way to stay healthy and active, but some are looking to more unconventional options, like the mall.

You’ve heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” but what about window shopping? Parkway Place Mall in Huntsville opens its doors at 8:30 a.m. for some early morning exercise. On any given morning, more than 40 people start off their morning walks at the mall and people like Greg Marty are doing it to stay social and be healthy.

“It’s probably the best exercise you can get is walking for your cardiovascular system,” Marty said. After he suffered two heart attacks, his cardiologist suggested daily walks. But, he had to think of outside the box, with weather being unpredictable he wanted a place where he could go rain or shine.

“I’ve built my strength up. I walk between two and three miles a day now,” Marty said, “if I miss a day, I feel like my routine is thrown off real bad and I’m not real happy with myself either,” adding that if he misses a day during the week, he makes sure to make up for it on the weekend.

Dexter Elliott another walker says it was after his prostate cancer diagnosis that he decided mall walking was not only a way for him to stay active and healthy but be social.

“I needed exercise. So coming here, getting me out of the weather, would get me able to exercise and be inside a climate-controlled place and meet other people, say hi, and just kind of hang out. I guess you can say and get away from the house for a couple of hours.”

Health clubs can sometimes be expensive, Elliott says he’s appreciative that the mall provides a space for him and many others to stay active, socialize and create a community that has not only bonded them through activity, but they can do it for free.

“I’m thankful that they give us somewhere to go, to have somewhere to exercise,” Elliott said.

While both men have seen many health benefits like lower cholesterol and heart strength, it’s the interactions and friendships that they value the most.

“A lot of church people walk, so I’ve met other folks from other different faiths and everything. I’ve got a good friend that he and I walk during the week at home sometimes,” Elliott said.

Both men also agree that if it wasn’t for this small community, they wouldn’t have met the people that they’ve become friends with or shared their stories, spreading awareness on many health issues and concerns.

“I’ve made several friends down here that I would have never met any other way so I’ve really enjoyed it, to make people smile and just being down here, waving at people and seeing them,” Marty said.

One of the most valuable things Elliott says is sharing his journey and how important cancer screening is in men, “I tell men, go and get your check-ups, prostate cancer will sneak up on you and I’m just thankful to spread that awareness,” Elliott said.