Call it a Valley Girl's dream: college credit for walking around a shopping mall.
"I used to walk Benicia State Park. Then the mornings got hard and chilly. Here the temperature is controlled and you know what your mileage is," said Atha Petty during Thursday's one-credit, early morning exercise class at Hilltop Mall.
The 24 students in the mall-walking class are older than the average mall enthusiast, ranging from 45 to 75 years of age. Many signed up on the advice of doctors; others said they liked having company while exercising.
The class, which costs $6 at Contra Costa Community College, is the brainchild of Lance Lew, marketing director for the mall, about 20 miles north of San Francisco.
Loui Murillo, dean of business, arts and science, said he liked the idea because mall-walking offers older adults a consistent climate, security and ample parking.
Grading for the twice-weekly course is based mostly on attendance and participation, with a few quizzes on computing pulse rates and naming different muscles.
One loop around each of the mall's two levels is roughly a half mile. The circular ramp adds 180 feet to the route and the staircase 50 feet.
Escalators are forbidden, as is shopping, but window shopping is not.
"Sometimes I stop," confessed Rose Andreotti. "If you get the idea you like something, you can come back and buy it."
Most of the stores don't open until 10 a.m. anyway. That is, all but Donut World and McDonald's, but abstinence is the rule.