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David Fisher, MD, MPH: Fight Empty Stairwells!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Fight Empty Stairwells!

A few months ago, I decided to start taking the stairs at the hospital instead of the elevator.  I make rounds on the 4th floor of Advocate South Suburban Hospital at the inpatient unit for Advocate Hospice.  Climbing 4 flights of stairs may not seem like a big deal, but it has several benefits:

1) Burns more calories than taking the elevator
2) Exercises the quadriceps, a vitally important muscle group
3) Provides a snapshot of one's cardiovascular health (if you are winded after 3 or 4 flights, you are not getting enough aerobic exercise)

I finished my rounds the other day and I was on my way back downstairs when something dawned on me.  Since my decision to utilize the stairs 5 months ago, I had never met another person in the stairwell!  Now, I know people are traveling between floors, because when I was taking the elevator I almost always had company.  What are the reasons people don't typically use the stairs?

1)  Inconvenience.  It is hard to find a stairwell these days.  Many are not near the elevator bank, and most buildings are designed with the elevators front and center.  Tip: Look for the "Exit" signs and you will find the stairs.

2)  Time.  We are often under the impression that taking the elevator will save us crucial seconds, and since most of us (myself included) don't leave any margin in our schedules, we feel the pressure to get upstairs as quickly as possible.  By the way, I timed my average elevator trip, including waiting, and compared it to taking the stairs.  Result: no difference.

3)  Fear of setting off an alarm.  Many stairwells are now marked "emergency exit" and it gives the impression that they are only to be used in case of emergency.  There is a difference between "Emergency Exit" and "Emergency Exit Only: Alarm Will Sound."  If you go through a door like the one pictured here, you will give a lot of people some extra exercise, including some local firemen, but the embarrassment is probably not worth it.  If the door simply says "Emergency Exit" it is usually safe to use.

4)  Plain old laziness.  Elevators are just too easy.  It takes a conscious commitment to use the stairs.

Make your decision today to join me in populating stairwells once again!

1 comment:

mama said...

Hey David! Those are some pretty nice stairs in your photo. My experience with hospital stairwells has been quite different. Most of them have been closed and dark. During my tenure as a "hospital mom" I had the opportunity to try many different stairs. I ran (or breathlessly walked) into a couple of problems. One - safety. I never liked to take the stairs 'after hours' for fear of being assualted (this is also what has stopped me from taking the stairs at hotels). I know this problem could be easily remedied if more people started hoofing it, therefore never leaving vulnerable young ladies alone... The other problem is some stair wells don't open onto every floor. (This was true at Loyola in some spots). There is not much worse than hiking up 5 flights of stairs only to have to be denied entry at your summit :( Yes, the excercise of walking back down and finding an elevator was good, but it was frustrating when I was anxious to get back to my baby. So while I agree with you in theory - stairs are good, yay for stairs, our hearts will thank us!! In practice there are still improvements to be made.

Thanks for the great blog!!!