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By Stephanie Wells

Student life can be dangerously unhealthy — sitting through hours of lectures, working at computers and reading textbooks leaves little time for exercise.

That’s why an agency and some Ryerson students are teaming up to get students moving. “Physical inactivity is hazardous to our health,” said Kathleen Dugas, an officer with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Billie Hermosura and Nancy Lemieux, both fourth-year nutrition students, are bringing Stairway to Health to Ryerson. The program, created by the Public Health Agency of Canada, encourages physically able people to choose the stairs instead of taking elevators. Hermosura said there are health benefits to climbing stairs, and it can ease congestion on busy elevators, such as the ones in Jorgenson Hall.

“We get used to taking the elevators,” Hermosura said, “but stair climbing is incidental physical activity ?– something you can work into your day.” Health Canada recommends 30 to 60 minutes of daily physical activity, but the student lifestyle often affords far less than that. Cold weather also makes it less likely that people will work an activity such as walking or cycling into their daily routine.

There is little cost to introducing Stairway to Health on campus. Hermosura said permanent posters will go up in March, reminding students that taking the stairs is a healthier option. The program will be promoted on campus by student volunteers.

The response to the Public Health Agency’s initative has been phenomenal, Dugas said. There are currently 308 organizations registered with Stairway to Health, representing a total of more than 500,000 people. “People can understand that taking the stairs improves fitness, contributes to better health, and makes you feel more energetic,” Dugas said. Stairway to Health has received support from school officials, including VP Administration and Student Affairs, Linda Grayson.

“I will make a conscious effort to take the stairs,” Grayson said. Stairway to Health is coming to Ryerson at a time when President Sheldon Levy has made a commitment to campus improvement. Common areas, including stairwells, are cleaned more often, and better lighting has been installed.

Although taking the stairs with a buddy is still recommended, Hermosura thinks these improvements have made Ryerson’s stairwells safer and more inviting for student use. “It’s perfect timing,” Hermosura said. “It’s a positive thing for Ryerson to do. It’s part and parcel with developing that community sense on campus.”

More information is available at the Stairway to Health website:

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