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Fitness Tip: Take the Stairs

Friday, December 19, 2008 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
It may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how few people use the stairs as opposed to an elevator or escalator. Take the below photo I took while attending the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference back in 2005 (Denver, CO). Note the obvious discrimination against stair use by the attending sports medicine professionals. Only the gentleman on the far left seems to be contemplating his options, while the rest resort to the automated assistance of the escalator.
This photo is particularly disconcerting given that it was taken almost directly after a keynote speech by Dr. Steven Blair. For those who have not heard the name, Dr. Blair (who I had the pleasure of meeting at that conference) is one of the most prominent figures in the area of physical activity epidemiology. He has for many years produced evidence which shows that minimal levels of physical activity (30 minutes on most days) are associated with enormous decrements in disease and mortality risk. (We will be discussing the impact of Dr. Blair’s work in more detail in future posts.)

Thus, to avoid being called a hypocrite, I recently decided to practice what I preach. That is, as of about 2 months ago, I have given up the use of elevators/escalators whenever reasonable. As I live on the 5th floor, I manage to get my heart rate up at least a few times every day. Additionally, the Physical Education Centre at Queen’s University, where Travis and I work, has only one dilapidated elevator so I accumulate some stair climbing at work as well – running back and forth from my supervisor’s office (1 floor above).

Of course, I am fairly reasonable about this rule, and have in fact used an elevator in the past 2 months – but it has probably been less than a dozen times. For example, when I got my wisdom teeth extracted a few weeks back, I refrained from using the stairs. Also, whenever I go shopping, and the load is too much to carry, I will sacrifice the stair climb – but even then, I have on numerous occasions loaded up the elevator with my girlfriend in it, and then ran up the stairs and picked up the shopping bags when they arrive.

It is important to note that every little bit of physical activity accumulated throughout the day counts. Thus, while taking the stairs a few times a day is not equal to jogging for 60 minutes – I’ll bet that in a few weeks you’ll find you get less winded ascending them and can climb at a much quicker pace – an accomplishment in itself. Also, abstaining from elevator/escalator use may be a nice New Year’s resolution and a perfect start towards a more active lifestyle.

Happy Stair-Climbing!


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2 Response to "Fitness Tip: Take the Stairs"

  1. Dr. Sean Wharton, MD, PharmD, FRCPC Said,

    Again a great blog and reaffirms our faith in exercise and that everybody should increase their activity at every chance they can get.

    Posted on December 20, 2008 at 12:04 AM

  2. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    Thanks for the comment Sean.

    I trust all is well on your end - albeit a bit chilly and snow-covered, at the present.

    We plan to have more exercise specific posts in the near future on things such as: metabolic effects of a single exercise session, the fat burning zone myth, role of exercise in treating obesity beyond weight-loss, etc.

    I wish you and Sherri-Anne a merry holiday season. I will get in touch if we're in the area over the holidays.

    Take care,


    Posted on December 20, 2008 at 12:50 AM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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