Alastair Dalton: Opt for stairs over the lift

IT IS one of the most effective forms of exercise during a day at the office – but many workers are too lazy to bother. Taking the stairs rather than the lift is better for you than jogging, cycling or even hill-walking.

Taking the stairs can add years onto your life. Picture: PA
Taking the stairs can add years onto your life. Picture: PA

It has even been estimated that routinely taking the activity is the equivalent of scaling one Munro (mountain over 3,000ft) a year.

Research has also shown that just seven minutes a day of stair-walking has significant health benefits.

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Climbing stairs builds strength and provides good cardiovascular exercise.

But walking downstairs is equally good – as a high-impact activity that improves bone health.

According to experts, the beauty of using the stairs is it’s the easiest way of being more active and losing weight without having to take “exercise” as such – especially if you are just moving around the building.

However, finding the stairs can be a challenge in many public buildings and hotels.

While the lifts are often prominently positioned in entrance halls, gaining access to the stairs can sometimes feel like having to find the “secret door”.

They are often hidden, unmarked down a corridor.

In one newish Edinburgh office complex, visitors were even told the stairs were for “staff only”, and everyone else must take the lift.

Then, when you finally locate the staircase, it can be uninviting – even dark and undecorated. You can feel like a second-class citizen just for opting to take that healthier form of transport.

The problem is that we all now take lifts for granted, regardless of how many floors we are travelling between.

That was vividly illustrated when the lifts were broken in a tall, thin office block in Glasgow city centre.

I’ve never seen so many disgruntled looking people – and many were a different shape from their building.

Nevertheless, stairs offer a potentially far more appealing form of exercise than tramping traffic-fume-clogged streets, even when it’s not raining, freezing or blowing a gale.

So what’s to be done? Some approaches tried in other countries, like playing music in stairwells, or turning steps into piano keys, appear over-the-top – if not likely to be downright irritating for regular users.

Designing buildings to give centre stage to stairs would be a start.

But what about banning the able-bodied from taking lifts between, say, just two floors. Would that be too draconian?

The likely backlash would probably make that a non-starter – but it also demonstrates how much lifts have become part of the problem. Even so, it’s time for a fundamental rethink of how we use them to get about.