BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — We think of the Mall Of America as a shopping Mecca — a place where people spend their hard-earned money. But about 200 Minnesotans have found it to be the perfect place to get their daily walk in.

Doctors say walking for just 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease. That’s why every morning the Mall Stars, a walking group, check into the MOA.

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Some stores don’t open until 10 a.m., but the building is full of life long before anyone buys a single item. The group walks, stops to talk, and pays attention to their surroundings.

“They change the stores all the time,” said Phyllis Dircks, a Mall Star.

“It’s interesting. At some of our meetings we’ve had speakers at the mall and they might make reference to a store on third floor and a Mall Star will correct them and say ‘no that’s on the second (floor),'” said Dan Everson, Mall Stars Coordinator.

Dircks said she began walking at the building when the mall opened.

“That was 19 years ago and four years ago I got the oxygen,” she said.

Not even her emphysema can slow her down.

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“In the last 12 months she’s walked 293 out of the 365 days,” said Everson.

On a good day, she can walk about an hour and a half and her determination recently paid off. Her fellow Mall Stars, also her friends, recently named her “Walker of the Year”.

“I come because sometimes it’s the only thing I do — the only walking. And I feel you have to walk every day,” said Dircks.

“She’s tenacious and does not give up,” said Everson.

The Mall Stars keep track of how many hours all 200 members walk and they’re given the results at a monthly meeting.

Some of them, including Dircks, don’t bother paying attention to the numbers anymore. They’re there for each other and the exercise.

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If you would like to join the Mall Stars, you can pick up a brochure at any guest service desk