Stairs are the prize of my house.

I have two set of stairs in my house, one set leading upstairs to the bedrooms and the second leading down to the basement. It is a typical suburban three-bedroom house with a one-car garage converted into a personal library; one of the bedrooms upstairs was made into my study. There is truly nothing special about these stairs; they are just stairs.

But I go up and down the stairs all day if I am home, all my waking hours, in fact, whenever I am home. They are just stairs. They are essential as such; but to me they are more than essential. They are precious. They may one day turn out to be a curse when I am too old and to walk up or down the stairs easily or safely. But while I can they are a blessing. I am in no doubt that they are one of the most essential factors contributing to my good health.

When I read I sit in the living room or at the desk in the library. When I write I am in the upstairs study which is my office with two computers, a printer, and a copier. I don't have everything I need for writing in the study. My books are spread all over the house -- upstairs, downstairs, and even in the basement, and so are my papers. In consequence, I spend a great deal of time climbing up and down the stairs. I rarely sit at the computer very long, for example. If I need anything upstairs while I am downstairs, for example, I run down to get it without waiting for the next opportunity to go down the stairs. Conversely, I am downstairs and need anything from upstairs or down in the basement, I don't hesitate to make a trip immediately however minuscule a task -- to pick up one little thing, to check if I left the lights on, to look up one word or one single page reference. I move myself up and down without waiting for a major business, as though it's just the next room or just an arm's reach; I move without ever procrastinating. Not only do I go up and down the stairs but also get up from the chair and sit down again over and over, and then also cross the rooms repeatedly. All this may seem to some a great deal of waste of time. It is, no question, inefficient. I am spending more time scurrying around than writing. Little wonder I am a slow writer.

But there are two special benefits in compensation. First of all and most importantly, I automatically get a lot of physical exercise, and climbing stairs, together with walking and swimming, is said to be the best kind of exercise for the body, especially for keeping the heart in good health. I don't exercise as such, in fact. I don't jog, I don't bicycle, and I don't have exercise machines. The stairs, if you will, is a built-in exercise machine for me; and to use it I don't have to don a gym suit or put on a jacket and special shoes as one would do going out to jog or walk.

Secondly, since I never stay in the chair a very long period of time, I don't have to worry much about the chance of developing RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), CPS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome), lower lumbar pain, and other computer related ailments. We are told that when we sit down to write on the computer, we should make a habit of getting up from the chair occasionally to rest the muscles. I go one better; I made a habit of going up and down the stairs.

So, stairs became a habit with me, and whatever it is I am doing and wherever it is I am doing it, I constantly break the rhythm by making frequent trips up and down between the basement, the main floor, and the upstairs. At school I do the same between my office on one floor and the slide library on another floor. It is a habit that is hard to break now, and I am all grateful for it. My good health certainly has much to do it.

Going up and down the stairs is a boost, and the stairs in my house are truly a blessing.

T. Kaori Kitao, 3 December 1998

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