Forgive me.

I'm one of those jerks who had long considered mall walking synonymous with, say, wearing sweatpants in public, or driving a car so dirty that its "Wash Me" finger graffiti was covered by another layer of grime.

In other words, mall walking was the equivalent of giving up.

I was wrong. Mall walking — no gym membership required! — is an excellent aerobic pursuit. Especially in winter, when the prospect of freezing your face off while power-walking Lake of the Isles becomes the exercise deterrent du jour.

There are plenty of options in the Twin Cities. Proximity is a key factor in the where-to-go decision — why travel for a half-hour to a mall when the closest one is five minutes away? — but there are other considerations.

For starters, there's visual stimulation. Let's face it: Some malls are uglier than others. (We're focusing on suburban malls, leaving the downtown skyway labyrinths to another time.)

A half-vacant mall is no fun, although in this era of social distancing, low-traffic indoor spaces have their attributes. Conversely, a route that's lined with compelling retailers transforms low-impact exercise into window shopping. Multitasking, right?

For some a.m. mall walkers, access to caffeinated beverages is a must. Delicious snacks never hurt. Natural light always wins over artificial illumination.

For this survey, steps were logged via iPhone pedometer, where roughly 2,000 steps equals a mile. The routes followed a stick-to-the-outer-perimeter path and included central courts, corridors and entrance hallways, but excluded anchor stores.

OK, let's lace up our New Balances and get going.

1. Mall of America

Atmosphere: The gold standard, with an intuitive circulation pattern, countless (welcome) distractions and sunshine, sunshine, sunshine.

Steps: 6,900, on three levels (skipping the semi-claustrophobic fourth floor).

Amenities: Talk about "one-stop," there's even a walk-in clinic on the premises. And there's always something new; witness the refreshing beverages at slick Juicebox.

Selfie magnet: So many, from the LEGO Store to Nickelodeon Universe to the slightly larger-than-life George Clooney photo outside Nespresso.

Caffeination: Plenty, with three Starbucks, six Caribou Coffees as well as Dunkin', Ebar (inside Nordstrom), Capital One Cafe and others. Highlights: the premium Dogwood Coffee beans used at Lululemon's stylish Fuel Space and the 99-cent self-serve cups at Holiday.

Empty storefronts: Thanks to Hugedale's immense scale and hundreds of tenants, encountering a few dozen empties barely registers.

Best: Where to begin? Super-convenient light rail and bus links. Handy rental lockers (and free coat racks, for the trusting) for stashing bulky outerwear. Generous early-ish a.m. hours. Legions of fellow walkers. The ability to log several miles without repeating the route. It even has its own mall-walking club, MOA Mall Stars, that offers camaraderie, data and discounts.

Bummer: While it's tops in pairing visual variety with a maximum number of steps, the megamall's mega-scale can be daunting.

Details: 2131 Lindau Lane, Bloomington, Early entrance begins three hours prior to store hours.

2. Galleria

Atmosphere: The state's most illustrious assemblage of Gold Card merchants is juxtaposed against a floor plan that skips soaring atriums, flashy fountains and other upscale retail apparatus in favor of a low-key, shop-lined corridor.

Steps: 1,700, on one level. Get a cardio boost by using stairs to the smaller lower level.

Amenities: The concierge desk is an appropriately luxe touch.

Selfie magnet: What could be more Edina than joining the seemingly ever-present queue to enter Louis Vuitton?

Caffeination: Starbucks and the Good Earth.

Empty storefronts: Two, maybe three, tops, which explains the energizing buzz of honest-to-goodness commerce that permeates the place.

Best: The plutonium-grade window shopping.

Bummer: Despite the retail bling, the less-than-fancy layout can make for less-than-scintillating scenery after a few (short-ish) laps. Sunscreen is sadly not necessary.

Details: 3510 W. 69th St., Edina,

3. Ridgedale

Atmosphere: An expansive central courtyard flanked by four extensions makes for what is perhaps the Twin Cities' most approachable mall-walking footprint.

Steps: 2,950, on two levels.

Amenities: Take a warm-up or cool-down lap through Nordstrom, the Twin Cities' best looking and most browsable department store.

Selfie magnet: A vintage Chevrolet Apache pickup truck, parked near Macy's on the first floor.

Caffeination: Starbucks (inside Macy's), Ebar (inside Nordstrom) and Caribou.

Empty storefronts: Just over a dozen, but with the mall's lively tenant mix, the absences barely register.

Best: The bustling environment runs counter to the shopping mall industry's woes.

Bummer: The gigantic temptations at T-Rex Cookie negate any calorie-burning efforts.

Details: 12401 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka, Early entrance begins one hour prior to store hours.

4. Rosedale

Atmosphere: A preponderance of sunlight — and a recent renovation — give this spotless 53-year-old property an impressive up-to-the-minute vibe.

Steps: 2,725, on two levels.

Amenities: Potluck, the chain-averse food hall, is a role model for suburban malls everywhere.

Selfie magnet: The awesome "I put the betcha in you betcha!" neon art installation (by Minneapolis artist Carly Van Veldhuizen) inside Potluck.

Caffeination: Starbucks (inside Macy's), Caribou and Nordic Waffles.

Empty storefronts: Five, reinforcing the pleasing aura of prosperity.

Best: So much mood-enhancing sunlight.

Bummer: Not-so early hours of 11 a.m. Sun.-Thu., 10 a.m. Fri.-Sat.

Details: 1595 Hwy. 36, Roseville,

5. Eden Prairie Center

Atmosphere: A 20-year old facelift, with cheery Prairie School-inspired touches, has held up nicely.

Steps: 2,950, on two levels.

Amenities: Carry a post-walk latte to the spacious, well-appointed food court.

Selfie magnet: The Ferris Wheel (or the aquarium) inside Scheels.

Caffeination: Starbucks (inside Barnes & Noble and Target), Ginna's Cafe (inside Scheels) and Caribou.

Empty storefronts: Around 15; even with the occasional vacancy, the mall feels active.

Best: The predominantly yellow-and-white color scheme is a day brightener.

Bummer: Von Maur's entertaining pianists aren't situated closer to the store's mall entrance.

Details: 8251 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie,

6. Southdale

Atmosphere: Expansions to the original 1956 design have resulted in a meandering floor plan that's either fun for the serendipitous-minded or vexing for the routine-oriented.

Steps: 2,750 on three levels (skipping the basement).

Amenities: For post-exertion rewards, visit Rustica, one of the region's top-performing bakeries. Also, See's Candies.

Selfie magnet: Sculptor Henry Bertoia's three-story "Golden Trees," a major public art gesture from the department store-owning (and Dales-building) Dayton brothers, aka the Medicis of the Midwest.

Caffeination: Starbucks (inside Macy's) and Caribou.

Empty storefronts: Approaching 30. Yikes.

Best: Who needs Vitamin D supplements when there's this much sunlight? Also, the Life Time indoor soccer field provides fun-to-watch diversions.

Bummer: The abundance of dark storefronts is a sad sight for this Minnesota original, the nation's first enclosed suburban shopping mall.

Details: 10 Southdale Center, Edina, Early hours begin at 8 a.m. daily.

7. Maplewood Mall

Atmosphere: A decade-old remake of this utilitarian 1974 property (it could have been called "Fauxdale") perked up some of its original Energy Crisis-era architecture.

Steps: 2,800, on two levels.

Amenities: The food court has a branch of Maya Cuisine, hurrah.

Selfie magnet: The whimsical, old-fashioned carousel.

Caffeination: Starbucks (inside Barnes & Noble) and Caribou.

Empty storefronts: Nearly 30. The pulse is neither racing nor flatlining.

Best: The upper level is sunnier and peppier.

Bummer: Yes, that fake-bake scent means there's a Cinnabon.

Details: 3001 N. White Bear Av., Maplewood, Early hours begin at 9 a.m. Mon.-Sat. and 10 a.m. Sun., enter through doors 3 and 5.

8. Northtown

Atmosphere: The beige-on-tan-on-brown color palette — the visual equivalent of a dial tone — reflects the 1972 opening date of this otherwise tidy Anoka County destination.

Steps: 1,800, on one level.

Amenities: An impressive new food hall is filled with a dozen locally owned vendors.

Selfie magnet: Unclear, as joy-sparking opportunities are in short supply.

Caffeination: 2 Dope Chicks and Flynn's Eats serve coffee; otherwise, zilch. Paging Gloria Jean's!

Empty storefronts: Very few "For Lease" signs, so this is hardly Dead Mall Walking territory.

Best: The no-nonsense circuit clocks in just shy of an easy-to-remember mile.

Bummer: With its abundance of artificial light, this might not be the place for those afflicted with seasonal affective disorder. And the single-level format can get monotonous, fast.

Details: 398 Northtown Drive NE., Blaine, Early hours begin at 9 a.m. Mon.-Sat. and 11 a.m. Sun., enter through door No. 5.

9. Burnsville Center

Atmosphere: Kudos to the easy-to-navigate late-1970s design, which is basically two long pavilions linked via a pair of central courtyards.

Steps: 2,865, on three levels.

Amenities: Handy coat-stashing lockers.

Selfie magnet: A colorful mural (upper floor, center court) of downtown Minneapolis by Twin Cities artist Michael Birawer.

Caffeination: Kemps Ice Cream Cafe (in the low-wattage food court) features $1.80 cups of coffee; step outside for Panera Bread.

Empty storefronts: Sixty-plus, the region's highest blank-wall quotient.

Best: Tepid foot-traffic levels = lots of social distancing opportunities.

Bummer: The alarming number of vacancies makes for a Debbie Downer stroll.

Details: 1178 Burnsville Center, Burnsville, Early hours begin at 10 a.m. daily.