Stand aside: Walking up and down escalators benefits health, brain age


W Shon Laird

Published: 4:00 AM, January 12, 2017
Updated: 6:48 AM, January 12, 2017

I am writing in response to Mr Timothy Tang’s letter, “Rushing on escalators a bad habit that should be discouraged” (Jan 10), where he mentions that moving quickly on the steps of escalators is stressful to the joints, and should be avoided by those with weak legs. And the practice of keeping left on escalators to clear a path for those who wish to move faster should be reconsidered.

However, my opinion is that walking on escalators is good for you.

I am encouraged to exercise vigorously for a few minutes several times a day, and since I have a desk-bound job, the escalators at MRT stations and malls serve to keep me active to a small degree — exercising my heart, legs and lungs. Surely, this is better than standing still on the moving steps?

In Sweden, they turned a staircase into a giant working piano keyboard, so that people can make musical notes while moving up and down, promoting exercise. In Singapore, then, our modern transport network could not possibly be actively encouraging inertia?

My body was tested to the extreme last week on the Holborn, the undergound line in central London. There were four long escalators with a vertical height of 24m to reach street level.

A 2002 study on the London Underground’s escalators found that the standing-only side of an escalator can carry a maximum of 54 people per minute, while the walking side can carry a maximum of 66 people per minute.

A further report found that brain age improves by 0.58 years in individuals who climb at least one extra flight of stairs a day — perhaps not relevant in my advancing years. To those on the escalators, please keep to the left (or right, if you are in London) as I whizz past — do not stand in the way of (my health’s) progress.