(This is an update to the article written a few years ago)
By Promod Puri
The fun in life includes some simple recreational activities in our daily life. And the one I like the most is just a few steps away as part of my every day up-and-down commute.
These are the stairs leading up to our apartment. Over the years I have done this personal “Grouse Grind” hundreds of times. Although my experience with stairs is quite extensive, still I would not call myself a stair-master.
But as a veteran of the stairs, I have learned some techniques and some dos and don’ts of going up and down. These know-hows are not meant for practicing to hike Mt. Everest, but simply to enjoy the staircase walk as physical activity. Stairs make an excellent place to get a daily dose of cardio and some belly alignment. A simple stroll up and down the stairs gives a good aerobic workout.
According to a Mayo Clinic newsletter, stair climbing helps strengthen and tone our leg muscles. It keeps our leg arteries flexible, allowing blood to move more easily. “Better blood flow in your legs equals a healthier heart and body.”
It can also burn off calories — about 65 calories in 15 minutes. Going at a faster pace or carrying heavier items can burn even more calories, according to a Mayo newsletter.
Moreover, a three-minute up and down the stairs after a meal helps control blood sugar.
They say keep a balance in life. That is true for stairs too.
In this upscale workout keeping the body in balance is essential. Tripping and slipping often happen when the body wobbles due to imbalance. Balancing exercises are quite common in the gym. A popular one is trying to balance the body on a hemisphere shaped ball. At home, one can practice balance by standing on one foot or keeping one foot in front of the other for as long as possible. Balance requires concentration. Or to be more precise it is meditation in action to coordinate mind and body.
Now on to the stairs. A brief stretching of legs, keeping a uniform pace and raising each leg almost parallel to the upper body for each step, are some basics of the stair exercise. At a little advance stage, one can climb two steps at a time. Or do a little bit of descending acrobat of lifting the entire body by firmly holding railings on either side and then dropping both the feet on just one step down, definitely not two.
Another tip: While going up or down, heels or toes should not be hanging down rather whole foot be placed on each step. This gives full footing with more safety as well. A trivial act of misplacing a foot can be the cause of a serious fall. Looking down is not only a humble posture but a better choice to avoid a stair accident.
If safety is the main concern, and it should be, then the cardinal principle is the use of hand-railings all along the stairs. Railings are primarily meant to be a support system for a fall-free stair walk. Curves or bends, and sleekness of a staircase are the aesthetic elements that don’t promise safety.
It is often said when going up or down the stairs do nothing, no phone, no buttoning of the shirt, etc.
Keeping these safeguards in mind stairs does offer a simple, easy and free recreational activity.