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Smart, local ways to be well in 2015: Take the stairs

Yeah, yeah: you want to lose five pounds, exercise more, eat less. Who doesn't, at least during the month of January? But wellness means more than numbers on a scale, and a few local initiatives are playing their part in crafting a healthier Grand Rapids. Each week this month, Rapid Growth will feature one unique way to be well in West Michigan. Want a more thoughtful, sustainable path to feeling better in 2015? Read on.
During the month of January, Rapid Growth is featuring unique ways of being well in West Michigan. This article is part three of a four-part series. For part one, a profile of nonprofit yoga community EmbodyGR, click here. For part two, a look at growing organic produce delivery service Doorganics, click here.
 
When people make resolutions about health and wellness as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, they're likely thinking about exercise and nutrition as the primary ways to lose a few pounds, increase their endurance, or conquer a health-related goal in the new year. But since the majority of American adults spend the majority of their time at work, there's one oft-overlooked way they can incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines: take the stairs.
 
Local architect Joyce Lee, FAIA, LEED fellow, and president of Indigo JLD, which provides design guidance on leading-edge green projects, founded Stair Week last fall in Michigan, and she's working to bring awareness to the way daily design decisions can impact health and environment.
 
"As Americans spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, mostly at work, think inside the buildings," she says, noting that design decisions – like prominent stair placement – can shape behavior, mobility and circulation patterns for workers in many settings. And while it seems like a small change, taking the stairs can have a big impact.
 
"According to medical journals, men climbing at least 20 floors per week (four floors per work day) can lower their risk of stroke and death by all causes by 20 percent," says Lee. "And when done on most days of the week, three 10-minute bursts of activity like climbing stairs spread through out the day can provide as many health benefits as a single, 30-minute aerobic workout."
 
Perhaps it's a natural fit that West Michigan's history of design thinking would overlap with Lee's mission of thoughtful and sustainable design from an architect's perspective. "When stairs are well-lit, attractive, safe, central in the building, and doors are unlocked, they are inviting in the workplace," she says, adding that the initiative has a dual focus of celebrating health through smart, simple choices and designing green environments to help people live longer.
 
Though Governor Snyder proclaimed Stair Week in Michigan September 8-14, it's an idea that's resonating year-round – and spreading across the country, says Lee, noting that other states are following suit and that there will be future Stair Weeks in 2015 and beyond.


Stephanie Doublestein is the managing editor of Rapid Growth Media. She also writes at Reclaiming Sunday Supper, a project that explores rest and connection around the table.
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