Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, makes the case for more stairs as Birmingham faces up to an inactivity crisis.
Listening to the news this morning, I was interested to hear that the escalators at New St Station are in urgent need of repair.
Well here’s a novel idea: Why not take the opportunity to replace some of the escalators with stairways? I say this because I’ve played ‘hunt the stairs’ at New St Station and can only find the one staircase, on Platform 12.
Now I must stress here that I’m not merely directing this at New St Station. This country is in the midst of an inactivity crisis and I believe the developers of any building in the city should consider incorporating stairs in their designs.
I’m not suggesting we completely do away with escalators but give people a choice. Many of us want to take the healthier option. New St station has been transformed in recent years and the redevelopment has made a huge difference. But, personally, I have been frustrated by the lack of stairs. Why? Well, regularly taking the stairs can play a part in a healthier, more active lifestyle. And let’s face it, as a city we need to be more physically active.
If we take the Platform 12 staircase as an example. Using a calculator from the brilliant StepJockey initiative, the 36 steps from Platform 12 to the main concourse burn 5.4 calories climbing up and 1.8 calories climbing down.
Not loads but commuters doing this on a daily basis would certainly benefit. And it’s not just about burning calories. As the StepJockey website states:
Climbing the stairs burns more calories per minute than jogging.
Stair climbing requires 8-9 times more energy expenditure than sitting and about 7 times more energy than taking a lift
You burn about 0.15 calories for every step you climb, so you burn roughly a calorie for every 10 upward steps
You also burn calories going down. Every stair descended burns about 0.05 calories, so you burn 1 calorie for every 20 steps down
Just 7 minutes stair climbing a day has been estimated to more than half the risk of a heart attack over 10 years
Two minutes additional stair climbing a day is enough to prevent average middle age weight gain
Climbing 20 floors a week (just four a working day) is associated with a 20% lower risk of all-cause mortality
The heavier you are the more calories you burn when stair climbing.
Inactivity in Birmingham costs the NHS over £20 million each year and I’m not saying stairs alone will completely tackle the issue.
But over 30 million passengers a year pass through New Street Station and if a maybe half of them regularly took the stairs up from their platform, that would represent an easy victory for public health.