If you park in UCLA Parking Structure 4, 7  or 8, you may have noticed the elevator doors cleverly urging you to take the stairs. The attention-getting messages are the brainstorm of UCLA Transportation, which published this story about them in its Be a Green Commuter Blog:

Dr. Harvey Simon, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, calls climbing stairs "one of the best-kept secrets in preventive medicine...even at a slow pace, you’ll burn calories two to three times faster climbing stairs than walking briskly on the level." Climbing stairs is a great way to strengthen your heart and lungs, which can lower your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.

Science clearly shows the amazing benefits of walking up stairs. Prevention magazine noted: "Researchers in England and Northern Ireland asked 12 sedentary women to climb a 200-step staircase, progressing from once a day to six times a day. (They were allowed to take the elevator down.) Each ascent took about 2 minutes, so by the end of the study, the women were exercising only 12 minutes a day. In less than 2 months, they saw a boost in their fitness level, along with improvements in their cholesterol level that were enough to cut their risk of cardiovascular disease by 33%."

Stair climbing is twice as taxing as brisk walking and 50% harder than walking up a steep incline or lifting weights. Since walking up stairs is such a great workout, only those who are relatively healthy should add stair climbing to their daily regimen.

Climbing stairs is also free, and UCLA is full of stairways for your use. Our favorite spots include Janss Steps, Drake Stadium and the beautiful natural steps in the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden.

You'll also save time and electricity by choosing stairs over elevators. On top of that, every time you climb a flight of stairs, your body releases endorphins that will make you feel happy! So the next time you reach for that elevator button, take a moment to spot the nearest set of stairs. Start your next engagement with a brisk walk and a positive attitude.