Do You Take the Stairs?

It’s a fact, regular physical activity produces a number of physical and mental health benefits. This is an undeniable truth that none of us should ignore. Not only does regular movement make us look and feel better, it also diminishes the risk of “provoked” disease.

I say provoked because, although you may not know it, even if you have a predisposition to certain conditions, there has to be a gene trigger or provoker, as I like to call it, for the condition to rear its ugly head.

For instance, you may have a familial predisposition to diabetes or heart disease—however, the way you live your life, including the exercise you get, the food you eat, and the way you manage or don’t manage stress, can either suppress or provoke the gene switch.

In short, this means you have way more control over your health than you may have previously thought. This is a good thing, if you are willing to accept it and put it into practice. Sadly, the more I look around, the more I see people unwilling, by their actions, to take responsibility for their health.

It seems as though, for some reason or another, we have become a culture of victims, waiting to accept whatever course fate delivers us. But wait, it is not really fate that delivers the course, it is our actions, or rather our lack of “action” that ultimately is responsible for our demise.  Something so easy as taking the stairs more often can actually make a huge difference when it comes to your health.

My people watching experiment

A short time ago, I was in Las Vegas (through no fault of my own) visiting with family. I am not a big city gal in any sense of the word, so it can be a bit overwhelming for me to be anywhere with a population over 300! Everywhere I looked there seemed to be too much of everything—food, alcohol, and well… people!

As much as I would not consider myself a people watcher, I had a really great opportunity to watch people’s response when a heavily used escalator became out-of-service. Now, of course, there were stairs available and also elevators meant for those with physical challenges.

In less than ten minutes, over 40 people approached the escalator. Out of those 40, over three-quarters had an unpleasant verbal comment about the situation. A dozen or so actually turned and walked back the way they had come to avoid taking the stairs. Many, although not in any way handicapped, squished themselves into the elevator to ride down. Of those left, very few actually approached the steps without hesitation and glady departed downward.

After my time observing, I couldn’t help but wonder if this response to an opportunity to be active would be met with the same frustration and negativity in other countries throughout the world. My supposition was that it was probably one of those “Only in America moments.” Have we gotten too used to the “easy life” to even consider the value of something so easy as taking the stairs? I suspect so…

Just why people don’t have an internal motivation to take the stairs, and what exactly do they need to be motivated, has been the center of much research. In one study, researchers found that stair use increased somewhat when weight control signs were placed beside an escalator and stairs. There were actually two intervention signs used.

stairsThe first focused on the health benefits of taking the stairs and featured a caricature of a heart at the top of a flight of stairs together with the statement: “Your heart needs exercise, use the stairs.” The second intervention sign focused on a weight-control message and featured a caricature of a woman at the top of a flight of stairs with a thin waistline and large pants and read, “Improve your waistline, use the stairs.”

Overall stair use increased from 4.8% to 6.9% and 7.2% with the health benefits and weight-control signs, respectively.

  • Younger persons increased stair use from 4.6% to 6.0% and 6.1%
  • Older person almost doubled stair use from 5.1% to 8.1% and 8.7%
  • Normal-weight persons increased stair use from 5.4% to 7.2% and 6.9%
  • Overweight persons increased stair use from 3.8% to 6.3% and 7.8%

It’s amazing how something as simple as a little sign can make stair use increase. From my observations, they should start using these signs in Las Vegas!

How often do you take the stairs?

Susan Patterson

Susan is the Content Director at The Alternative Daily, a Certified Health Coach, Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor and Master Gardener. With an extensive knowledge of whole foods and wellness, Susan enjoys educating others on how to live healthy and sustainable lives. She presently lives off grid in the middle of the New Mexican high desert with her three children and numerous animals.

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