Taking the Stairs

One common suggestion for getting in shape is to take the stairs. Here in Maine, we don’t have many tall buildings, so that seems pretty reasonable and simple. Yet even someone who tries to be active may find themselves using the elevator instead, for a number of reasons.

Take my office, for instance. We’re up on the 6th floor, so taking the stairs does get my heart going. The only problem is that before 7:30 a.m., the door to exit the stairway is always locked, and far too often it remains locked well after that – past 8, even. To make matters worse, floors 4 and 5 require key card access to exit, which means that if I go up and find my door locked, I have to go back down to at least the 3rd floor and still take the elevator. It’s happened often enough that I gave up on the stairs, and I’ve heard a couple of my co-workers say the same.

It also doesn’t help that a lot of times, stairwells are not clearly marked. When I recently visited a friend in a 5th floor condo, I saw no stair access, only the elevator. Of course it must have had stairs, but I don’t know where they were, leaving me no choice in the matter.

Even if you can find them, and get out at the right floor, going up the stairs is not always a pleasant experience. The other day I walked up to a 3rd floor apartment, and the first thing I noticed was the scent of cigarette smoke. The stairs were also lit with harsh fluorescent bulbs, and just somewhat dingy and grimy.

It probably doesn’t help that in movies and TV shows, taking the stairs is usually related to something negative. You see people running down them or hiding in them to escape someone, or, in the case of Ghostbusters, going up to fight an ancient Sumerian god. These are not helpful to making positive associations.

Admittedly some stairs are well lit, clean, pleasant, and easily found, making them much more enjoyable. I still have fond memories of my old office space, where we had spiral wooden staircases, with skylights above, connecting the 5th and 6th floors. It was simply fun to go on those.

That makes me wonder – if taking the stairs was more enjoyable, accessible, and we could think about it more positively, would people be more inclined to use them? I don’t know, and I’m sure that it would depend on the number of levels, the individual person, if they were carrying groceries, etc. But it seems worth considering, and also worth remembering that if someone chooses not to take the stairs, they might have a very good reason that has nothing to do with lack of interest in health or fitness.

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