Why I take the stairs at the BBC


BBC Newsroom stairs

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When we moved offices from Television Centre to New Broadcasting House a year ago, I made a resolution: I would not use the lift. In more than a year I have pretty much stuck to it.

It's not a big deal - I don't work in the Shard. There are just 56 steps down from my floor to the newsroom, via a spiral staircase. But it adds up over time, especially if you include trips to other parts of the building like Panorama (4th floor, 48 steps), or the World TV studios and make-up on Basement level 3 (114 steps).

The main reason I do it is because I'm impatient - I hate waiting for the lift. I've found it is usually faster to walk. But of course I also know it is good for me.

Stair climbing is officially classed as "vigorous exercise", burns more calories per minute than jogging and improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.

Apparently you burn one and a half calories for every 10 upward steps and one calorie for every 20 steps down.

Now there is a web and app-based health initiative called StepJockey designed to encourage people to reap those health gains.

Its grand ambition is to "label the stairs of the world for calorie burn".

Once you have signed up online you can then enter your office stairs on the website. That means counting the number of steps between each floor. It then calculates the number of calories you use every time you make a return trip.

If your building signs up to the scheme you may start seeing StepJockey scan points by the stairwell on each floor, which climbers can use to log their stair count.

A gimmick? Perhaps. But self-monitoring health apps are hugely popular and have helped many people to improve their fitness.

StepJockey is backed by the Department of Health - receiving funding through the Small Business Research Initiative.

Stepjockey scan point StepJockey scan point

Alan Batterham, professor of exercise science at Teesside University, said: "StepJockey helps individuals to build a vigorous physical activity into their daily routine and is an excellent, time-efficient way to increase fitness and control weight.

"Stair climbing is also a surprisingly powerful form of exercise and has benefits that go beyond weight loss.

"It reduces the risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast and colon cancers."

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said: "This initiative is a great mix of old fashioned common sense and smart technology to track and incentivise".

It is certainly needed. The number of obese people in the UK has trebled in just 25 years. Only a third of adults in England do the recommended 2.5 hours or more of moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Even small amounts of exercise can be good for health. So if you see a StepJockey sign next to the stairs in your office, you know what to do.

Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    a professional fitness centre disagrees, they even spent money to build an escalator to their entrance.

    that's why the stair-climber gym equipment was invented.

    spiral stairs...could make someone dizzy...health & safety issues there.

    look up "escalator to gym entrance" on images.

    a good reason not to use the lift is to avoid standing close to strangers, while avoiding looking at them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Why is this deemed newsworthy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Of course, this is based on the flawed assumption that everyone consumes more calories than they need and therefore must find ways of burning off the excess.

    Not everyone is overweight and Fergus, for one, could possibly benefit from putting on a few pounds!

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Since not climbing the stairs (or indeed "lack" of exercise) is the cause of obesity, then climbing a flight or two of them isn't going to cure it either.

    The real issue is the ingestion of toxic sugars including: fructose, sucrose etc and grains, most often in the form of highly processed junk that makes up a lot of what most people eat these days. Cut the carbs, up the sat fat and cure obesity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    When i go to Covent garden tube station i love racing the people who take the lift.
    Thats a proper set of stairs!

    Yes - and the warning at the bottom just makes you want to climb them even more !

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Every day a guy who works on the 19th floor gets in the lift and travels to the 15th floor, gets out and then walks up the 4 remaining flights of stairs to the 19th. Why?

    He has dwarfism and cannot reach the 19th button.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    It's common sense really - using stairs requires a lot of energy, especially climbing up them as you're fighting gravity in addition to propelling yourself forwards.

    I can only see the need for lifts in very tall buildings or for disabled people - otherwise you're wasting energy to power the lift, wasting an opportunity to get some excellent exercise, and probably wasting some time too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    I've often seen the stairs in your photo in the background at the BBC.
    They look dangerous, like a spiral staircase, or helter skelter?
    I'm waiting for someone to trip and tumble...

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    136. HilaryJ

    'If you're fit why would it worry you if you were?'

    I have no problem with climbing the stairs. In fact, I do it a reasonable amount (rugby injuries permitting) - 96 stairs up four flights. What I don't take kindly to is someone saying I should be forced to because of my weight. I agree that it's a good way to get more exercise, but for some people, it's just not that simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    122: any person deemed as overweight or obese should be FORCED to use the stairs.

    How about they wear some sort of distinguishing badge on their clothes so we know who they are?

    Colleague of mine walks up every morning to the ninth. Then she stinks and needs a shower. The showers are in the basement. Problem there . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    More product placement from the BBC, this time for an app.

    The quality of reporting on the BBC website has deteriorated significantly over the last two years. Please give us balanced, topical reporting on events that matter and cut out the adverts for films and products that are thinly veiled as 'news'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Surely walking or breathing uses one calorie per step anyway

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    I'd be very surprised if anybody didn't realise climbing stairs was good for them. I tend to use the stairs to check how I'm feeling, if I have been ill and I want to play rugby at the weekend, on a Friday I climb to the top floor of the building I work in, if I can get up the 8 flights of stairs without being out of breath I know I'm ok to play! Write up an article about stair fitness assessment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    aside from obvious health benefits, taking the stairs facilitates more room for those whose only option is to take the lift. the number of times I've witnessed people filling up lifts while those with pushchairs, luggage, bikes and those who are physically disabled have to wait for the next lift. lifts are there to facilitate those who require extra assistance and should be considered a luxury!

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Rule of life. It's its 2 floors or less - take the lift.

    I scoff at the fat blobby cancer diabetes erectile dysfunction people who avoid physical activity of any nature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    "Where I work everyone knows me as the 'lift guy'.."
    To your face, maybe. Behind your back, you're probably "That Weirdo With The Empty Lift Fetish And The Germ Fixation".

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Maybe next time you ascend said stairs in said shiny new building, you might ponder the question "do we journalists at the BBC offer good value for money to the licence fee payer"?

    On the basis of the nonsense in this post, I would suggest a resounding "no!"!

    May I also suggest you try a blog or something (in your own time)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Journalist climbs stairs. Wow! Just wow!

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    I would love not to take the lift to my 1st floor office, but the staircase is 'out of order' , and has been for months.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    If God had meant us to climb stairs he wouldn't have invented lifts.


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