Sunday, September 28, 2014

Do you ride the elevator or take the stairs?

Elevator vs. stairs
Elevator vs. stairs
I work in a 13-story building in Bellevue, WA called the Bravern and my office is on the 10th floor. Rather than taking the elevator, I take the stairs every morning. Each floor has approximately 20 steps, meaning that I climb about 200 steps every morning on the way to my desk and another 200 steps down in the evening. Not only does this healthy routine get my heart pumping in the morning, but it also helps wake me up. In a sense, it’s my coffee in the morning that gets me going. This also helps me accumulate physical activity throughout the day.

Given the positive benefits, I sometimes wonder why so many people opt against taking the stairs and instead ride the elevator. Taking the stairs up 10 floors might be extreme, but I see many people take the elevator up just one floor or even two floors. In fact, a building I worked in in the past had a healthcare company called Group Health on the second floor. I routinely saw their employees take the elevator up just one floor. These people work for a health care company that promotes good health and yet they chose the elevator each day.

A University of South Carolina study found that people prefer the elevator to the stairs due to perceived speed benefits. While it’s true that elevators come out ahead for multiple floor journeys exceeding 2 - 3 floors, for 1 - 2 floor journeys, the stairs win out easily. The study found that the elevator takes about twice as long primarily for 1-floor trips due to needing to wait for the elevator to arrive to begin the trip.

Aside from the perceived speed benefits, design also has a strong influence on the elevator vs. stair decision. In most buildings, elevators are typically the centerpiece of elegant building lobbies, with pleasant lighting and agreeable music playing in the background. Stairs on the other hand tend to be more difficult to find and are not prominent features in most lobbies. Elevator interiors feature carpeting, sometimes have screens showing the weather or news headlines, and the music continues to play. Stairwells are narrow and look unfinished with exposed concrete and steel. In some buildings, stairwells are inaccessible due to security concerns and are for emergency use only. Ironically, I’m a member of 24 Hour Fitness and the stairwell doors are locked, forcing the use of the elevator to reach the gym to work out.

An important aspect of net worth is your health. Poor health leads to increased medical costs, which reduces your net worth. Good health ensures that you’ll be around to enjoy the net worth that you worked so hard to build. To encourage physical activity, new buildings should incorporate increased prominence for stairs compared to elevators. In the meantime, I’ll be taking the stairs. What will you choose?

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