Sometimes You Have To Go Up To Get Down

by DavalosMcCormack on September 17, 2009

There are exceptions to every rule. Take, for example, the rule that ‘what goes up must come down’. That’s not always the case. British singer Amy Winehouse’s drug consumption never seems to decrease, nor does the cost of health care. But in most other cases the rule is true.

For instance, I work on the fifth floor and to get to my office I have to go up. Well, duh!! To go home I have to go back down. Unfortunately the only way to do that is by taking the elevator because the stairs, for reasons unknown, are locked and can only be used in emergency, so you could take the stairs down but the only floor you can get out on is the ground floor, which isn’t much good if you want to just go down one flight.

At a time when so many Americans are overweight and when many of us have jobs that are pretty sedentary, it seemed crazy to me to shut off one of the most readily available and easily accessible forms of exercise, namely walking up and down the stairs.

Taking the stairs is a great way to pack in a little extra activity. It gets the legs moving, the heart thumping and the blood pumping. Even just going up one or two flights several times a day can be a great way to help you lead a more energetic lifestyle.

So, I asked our building manager if we could open the stairwells. It was a pretty simple request, it didn’t cost anything, didn’t require any special added services or equipment or security personnel and it had a number of obvious advantages in that it helped people be more active and decreased use of elevators – thereby saving the company money. However, because I happen to be a lowly peon in the organization, nothing happened. Even when my boss supported the idea it went nowhere; quickly and quietly.

Then I was at an event where my uber boss, the hospital CEO, talked about the power of “Two down one up”, namely, if you are going down two floors or up one then don’t take the elevator, take the stairs. He doesn’t just talk this particular talk, he also walks the walk and regularly climbs the seven flights to his office (clearly he works in a different building than I do).

I mentioned the conundrum at work and our inability to use the stairs. He said to try again only this time to say he supported it.

So, I did and lo and behold a mere two weeks later the stairs were opened and people were able to walk up and down. Going to the top helped us open doors, literally, and enable us to go up and down at will.

Now, besides the obvious frustration at the fact that the power of an idea was clearly less important than the source of its support, it makes you wonder how many other simple ideas to help improve health are being stymied because the people who can make things happen don’t have any incentive to do so. Until, that is, the boss steps up and says “do it”.

I still don’t know why the stairs were locked. But I do know why they were opened. Quite whether anyone will actually walk up and down I have no idea, but I’m hopeful that they’ll at least use them when going up or down one or two flights. It may even be that some people challenge each other to see how often they use the stairs instead of the elevator.

One other thing I do know. Because I was the one who opened his big fat mouth and got the doors open I can never again be seen in an elevator in my own building. I have a horrible feeling I am going to live to regret it.

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