I’m writing this post from the perspective of someone who is (mostly) able-bodied and still fairly young. Taking the stairs isn’t the right choice for everyone, so listen to your body and your family doctor if this post doesn’t resonate with you.
When was the last time you took the stairs?
This question popped into my head last month, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
When given the choice between taking the stairs, elevator or escalator, my preferences have shifted in the direction of the stairs for the following reasons.
Toronto is a bustling city. No matter what time of day or night it is here, you will almost certainly be surrounded by dozens to thousands of other people while going about your daily (or nightly) business.
There are many advantages to living this way that don’t quite fit into the theme of this post.
One of the disadvantages has to do with how crowded elevators and escalators can become, especially on the weekends and during rush hour. Elevators and escalators are in heavy demand. They would be crowded even if the only people who used them were chronically ill, physically disabled, pushing a stroller, or carrying a heavy load.
The fact that people who could take the stairs also use them only increases the demand for them. I don’t judge anyone for this decision, but I do personally find it more comfortable to avoid all of that jostling and take the stairs instead.
Why fight for a space on the escalator or wait five minutes for the next elevator when the stairs are right around the corner and mostly empty?
It’s a Mini Workout
One of the things I enjoy the most about living in a walkable neighbourhood is how much exercise is built into my normal activities.
While I have a structured fitness routine as well, half or more of the total exercise I get each day comes from mini workouts that happen in short spurts while I’m running errands or travelling somewhere.
Taking the stairs is one of these things I do regularly that only takes a few minutes here and there but adds up to a few extra hours of exercise per week.
In my experience, turning small, easy lifestyle changes like this into habits is an excellent way to become more fit over time. I’d never do this sort of exercise for two or three hours in a row, but I have no problem putting the same amount of time in if it’s two or three hours spread across an entire week (or more).
And the more I take the stairs, the stronger my urge to do it becomes over time.
It Doesn’t Require Special Equipment
I don’t know about you, but I have a strong preference for types of exercise that don’t require me to change clothes, travel to a specific place, or use a particular piece of equipment.
Blame it on my negative experiences with elementary and high school gym class if you will. All I know is that it takes far less emotional energy to make a quick decision to walk up or down a few flights of stairs when the opportunity presents itself than it does to change into gym clothes, travel to a gym, exercise, shower, change into regular clothes, and then go home again.
I believe in gravitating towards types of exercise that work for your fitness level, interests, and willpower (or lack thereof). For me, that means taking the stairs more often.