How come I can run as much as I do and still get winded walking up the four flights of stairs to my Tuesday night class? They're brutal! I'm usually fine for the first three flights, but by the time I'm inching toward the fourth floor, my legs feel weak and I'm gasping for air. Yesterday was particularly awful since I was late for class and was therefore trying to run up the stairs to my class; I was so winded when I stepped into my classroom that I had to take a minute to catch my breath.
My students mostly take the elevator and they always ask why I don't just hop on board and cruise up the four flights in luxury like they do, but I have my reasons for the stairs. For one thing, stairs are an incredibly good workout, even if that workout only lasts five minutes. Lots of articles on exercise and weight loss advise people to find extra bits of exercise wherever they can -- parking further out at the mall so the walking distance is greater, walking through an airport instead of gliding along on the automated walkways, and, of course, taking the stairs.
Climbing stairs is one of the best aerobic exercises you can do actually, and it burns more calories per minute than many other forms of exercise. How many calories you burn depends upon your weight, but some web sites estimate that an average person burns about 10 calories a minute walking up stairs -- takes me five minutes, I must burn around 50 calories (doesn't quite burn of the ice cream sandwich I ate for breakfast, but it's a move in the right direction). The chance to burn a few extra calories is a good one, and for a runner, the opportunity to fit in a touch more exercise is always beneficial, but exercise is not the only reason I take those stairs once a week.
You see, I have a certain fear of elevators. Maybe it's because I got my arm stuck in one in college, or maybe it's the feeling that the cables will snap and we'll plummett to our deaths, or perhaps (and this is probably the key factor), being stuffed into that box makes me feel claustrophobic -- that, and I always feel a touch motion sick in there. So even though four floors seems harmless, I would just rather stick with the stairs. That way if I trip and tumble to my death, I can rest assured that I burned a few extra calories and that might make all the difference when fitting me into a funeral dress.