Walk the Stairs: Delay the Inheritance to Your Heirs!

Andrew Siegel MD    9/18/2021

Question: You are at the airport pulling a small bag on wheels and you need to ascend a flight or two to get to the next level. You have a choice of an escalator, an elevator, or stairs.  Walking will require lifting up the small suitcase and carrying it up the stairwell.  Will you choose to walk or use the escalator or elevator? 

Karen Mardahl, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

98% of Americans will choose the escalator!  Clearly, we are hardwired to conserve calories and favor inactivity and the path of least resistance. Then again, consider the average dimensions of American adults:

Female: 5 feet 4 inches tall; 171 pounds

Male: 5 feet 9 inches tall; 198 pounds.

I am one of the outlier 2% who choose to walk, which feels natural in anticipation of sitting on my butt for a flight and particularly after coming off a long flight.  

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was no need to exercise or work out, since intense physical activity was an integral part of work and the daily activities of living.  However, our modern world has largely eliminated the requirement for much physical activity: escalators, elevators, cars, electric can openers, dish washers, washing machines, valet parking, remotes for every appliance, etc. This has created the need to carve out time for exercise and physical activity and the necessity for gyms.  However, integrating physical activity into one’s life and using one’s muscles the way they were designed to be used during the activities of living can be highly beneficial and may reduce risk for chronic disease and premature death, without the need for an expensive gym membership. One’s choices — such as stairs versus escalators — can have a more significant impact on fitness than going to the gym. Collectively, these incidental activities can have a powerfully positive influence on your health, boost your mood, and enhance strength, fitness, balance and flexibility.

Aside from walking the stairs instead of using an escalator or elevator, there are a number of other ways to integrate motion and activity into your life. The following are some suggestions:

  • Pull your own luggage instead of using a porter
  • Park far away from the store and walk a few blocks instead of searching for that ideal spot and at the same time decrease your carbon footprint
  • Use your bicycle instead of the car to run errands
  • When vacuuming, do it “con brio,” with spirit and passion
  • Use your muscles to open doors instead of the electric alternative
  • Minimize use of electric appliances: mix batter by hand; open cans and wine bottles manually, use a regular cutting knife instead of electric, etc.
  • Walk the course if possible when you play golf
  • Walk to your airport gate instead of using the people conveyor
  • Engage in home maintenance physical activities: gardening and yard work, snow shoveling, mowing the lawn, sawing tree branches, chopping firewood, taking out the recycling, power-washing, etc.
  • Hand wash your car instead of bringing it to the car wash
  • Walk the dog
  • Carry your child on your back
  • Use the hula hoop, trampoline, etc., along with your children
  • Go dancing
  • Play a musical instrument; if it’s the piano, sit tall and pound those keys!
  • Carry your own groceries and heavy laundry baskets
  • Try to stand on one leg and balance when putting on your socks or tying your shoes
  • Walk while you are talking on phone with good posture and engagement of your core muscles (I often do laps around the kitchen center island while conversing)
  • Use a standing desk; if you don’t have one of these, get up an go for a 5-minute walk periodically
  • Instead of sitting: stand, kneel, squat or sit cross-legged
  • During your day, periodically stand up tall with excellent posture, scapulas flat, chest out and expanded, abdomen in, and take some deep inhales, the opposite posture to the typical hunching, cashew tendencies that many of us have
  • Take opportunities to stretch, for example when applying moisturizing lotion, extend your leg to stretch out the hamstrings
  • Do any activity that involves bodily movement or use of your muscles; even fidgeting is beneficial!

Wishing you the best of health,

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Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.  He is the co-founder of PelvicRx and Private Gym.  His latest book is Prostate Cancer 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families. 

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Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

PROSTATE CANCER 20/20 is now available at Audible, iTunes and Amazon as an audiobook read by the author (just over 6 hours). 

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

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One Response to “Walk the Stairs: Delay the Inheritance to Your Heirs!”

  1. 6 Things a Urologist (At Least One Like Me) Would Never Do | Our Greatest Wealth Is Health Says:

    […] On so many levels, exercise is vital and imperative for our physical health and wellbeing, so I try to carve out the time to exercise daily.  Fortunately, I have exercise equipment in my basement, so there are no excuses.  However, on occasion I find it impossible to find the time to exercise, so on those rare times I try to integrate segments of exercise during daily activities.  I walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator, stand up instead of sitting when seeing patients, take a walk at lunch instead of sitting for 30 minutes, etc.  Other means of integrating exercise into daily activities include pulling one’s own luggage at the airport, parking far away from destinations and walking, opening cans and wine manually instead of using fancy appliances to do so, walking the golf course, pursuing gardening and yard work, shoveling the snow, walking the dog, cycling to do errands, etc., anything to keep moving. See my previous blog on integrational exercise: Walk the stairs, delay the inheritance to your heirs. […]

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