Love letter to the beautiful – and useful – stairs at Erasmus University

The stairs at the Polak building are like a physical manifestation of M.C Escher’s Relativity, the famous drawing of different staircase leading to endless different places in a world where gravity doesn’t exist. The only difference between Escher’s stairs and the ones at Polak, is that in the drawing the stairs are actually used. While at EUR the elevator is preferred. 

If you take a look at the staircases at the Polak Building, the new Library and Erasmus MC you cannot but conclude they are quite beautiful. Even the concrete ones in the old main building are quite impressive in a kind of eastern European 1960’s way. The elevators on the other hand are nothing special, yet we love using them.
The fact that the elevators get the most exercise is ridiculous, according to the Erasmus Sustainability Hub. Therefore earlier this year they organized a five-day staircase challenge to promote exercise in the Polak. Even Rector Magnificus Pols helped to promote the use of stairs. Being a physician, he said in an interview in Erasmus Magazine: ‘You work here, you study here, but you also need to do some exercise. Take the stairs, as I have done. It’s for the best, it’s for your health.’

Friendly push needed

Research has pointed out that short, intense bursts of stair climbing have major benefits you're your health. Also it burns calories. A trip to the fifth floor of the Polak Building burns a total of 25 calories.

So it’s good for your health, your looks, the environment, and still most of those beautiful stairs go wasted. Why? Because simply by telling people to do things differently, they don't immediately change their behavior, Professor Semiha Denktas thinks. Besides her work as head of the Social & Behavioral Sciences department at Erasmus University College, she’s the academic director of the Rotterdam Centre for Health Promotion. ‘Many of the diseases and health problems we see nowadays are caused by behavior: unhealthy eating, too little exercise, not enough sleep, stress. As a researcher, I delve into the world of my research population and talk extensively with the subjects. How do they live, what information and tips do they need to make healthier choices? It turns out that giving people a friendly push in the right direction works well. For example as is happening with the piano staircase at Central Station: each step makes a sound and that’s a nice way to encourage people to take the stairs more often.’ In that sense maybe the prizes (varying from reusable water bottles to Erasmus Sport passes) will get you climbing those stairs.


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