Take steps to promote better health

While the Urban Redevelopment Authority sets new building standards for public spaces, I hope it will also consider making stairways more conducive for exercising ("URA sets new standards for public spaces in private properties"; Jan 25).

Stairways are a highly effective yet virtually cost-free exercise tool.

The benefits of climbing stairs have been well documented.

It was reported in The Harvard Alumni Study that men who average at least eight flights of stairs a day enjoy a 33 per cent lower mortality rate than those who are sedentary.

Seven minutes of stair-climbing a day can halve the risk of heart attack over 10 years.

Stair-climbing stimulates blood flow to the brain and helps us think better. Office workers who climb stairs often are likely to be more relaxed and productive.

Using the stairs could provide opportunities for people to interact, thereby facilitating community-bonding in residential estates and networking in offices.

There can also be a reduction in the crime rate in stairways. Crimes are committed there because these places are often deserted. When stairways are used often, criminals will be deprived of many convenient spots to "conduct their business".

When stairways become popular, lift use will be reduced, resulting in tremendous savings in the cost of power and maintenance. This also makes our carbon footprint smaller.

Persuading people to climb stairs is definitely an uphill task. It calls for a high-profile, well-coordinated national strategy.

Incentive schemes to promote stair use could be devised. Perhaps the Health Promotion Board could consider developing a mobile app that allows individuals to keep a record of their vertical distances covered, which can be used for redeeming prizes such as shopping vouchers.

Medical researchers should also initiate a large study to compare the before and after health effects of taking the stairs. The positive results from our local population will provide a further boost to the stairway promotional drive.

Singapore is a city with one of the highest numbers of high-rise buildings in the world.

It is a big waste not to turn this unique advantage of ours into a significant health resource.

Chang Nam Yuen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2017, with the headline 'Take steps to promote better health'. Print Edition | Subscribe