Climbing the stairway to health

I am left wondering if there is any chance of modern research ever catching up with cop-on and common sense. How much money is spent on studies that tell you what one of our Lads at the end of the bar could have told you in the first place?

A recent study based on 500,000 people, aged 35 to 84, has come up with the same result that I have been writing here over the last several years. Researchers analyised data from nine studies and have found that participants who reported regularly taking the stairs had fewer heart attacks and strokes than those who did not – and had a 24% lower risk of early death. Furthermore, the data indicated that health benefits increase with the number of stairs climbed and says that even brief bursts of physical activity is beneficial for heart health. ‘So, whether at work, home, or elsewhere, it pays to take the stairs,’ says study author, Dr Sophie Paddock, of University of East Anglia.

One more thing that is glaringly obvious from these studies is the clear evidence that that scribe isn’t being paid a fraction of what I’m worth!

‘You are on the third floor, the lift is just around the corner on your left,’ the nice girl behind the hotel reception will inform me. ‘Is there a stairs?’ I reply. No doubt these helpful people will assume that I am claustrophobic – especially when they see Mrs Youcantbeserious waiting for the lift, with her husband gone plodding up the stairs and probably hauling a bag into the bargain.

Same thing at airports: while the young and beautiful stand still as they are transported along on the moving walkway – or travelator, I think it is called. Then a bottleneck forms at the top of the next escalator. This will have nothing to do with me, because I just amble past and head up or down the stairs on hoof.

When I’m going to Croke Park, I most often drive to Maynooth and catch the train, but instead of parking in the railway station for the Drumcondra train, I abandon the car in an empty space a mile back the road and walk in. Mind you, now that we have recently moved back to live in Mullingar, I can walk from my house to the train.

These are all simple and easy changes you could make in your life; and if Dr Sophie Paddock (and myself!) are even half right, would you not like to live healthily for an extra 24% life bonus?

You don’t need a gym – unless you are doing high-density training for a projected goal. I know the gym is sacred to committed enthusiasts, many of whom believe that gym membership is the answer to all of life’s problems. It isn’t: for the rest of us there can hardly be anything more boring. That is borne out by the fall-off rate for new members – especially at the start of every year.

Think again about the wisdom of getting up on a treadmill and running for 40 minutes in a confined space and going nowhere. Why not find a suitable outdoor stretch where you can run, feel the wind in your face and hear the birds singing – and all it will cost you is the price of a good pair of shoes.

Are you really as pleased as you pretend with your exercise bicycle in the garage? All that peddling… all that heavy breathing… and going nowhere? Would you not consider buying a real bicycle and heading off somewhere? Somewhere where you might meet other people; have a destination to reach and feel you did something tangible? So you get wet and cold sometimes; well there are few greater pleasures than a warm shower after combating the great outdoors.

Forget the indoor bike or rowing machine with the TV on while you ride or row; you don’t need music piped into your ears… you need fresh air and something to stretch your arms and legs on a road, greenway or canal walkway.

Another tip for you – at no extra cost: striding or power-walking is as good for you as jogging – and walking is much easier on the joints. You can walk in a group, with a friend or head off alone. I have done a fair few long walks and heading off any morning after a good breakfast makes for a happy camper. Willie Nelson was correct when he said that ‘the nearest thing to freedom is being on the move’.

Obesity in children is an ever-growing (no pun intended) problem. Like taking the stairs, it is the little things that make a difference. Could the school bus drop-off not be 500m from the school gate, instead of dropping the children at the door?

Don’t Forget

Too many people confine their exercise to jumping to conclusions, stretching the truth, bending over backwards, sidestepping responsibility, and pushing their luck.