How small lifestyle changes can amount to something surprising

This blog is about stories, and one of the themes I love is how small lifestyle changes can make a massive difference. Micro adjustments to our lifestyle, done consistently, can amount to some pretty staggering results. I mentioned in a previous post how swapping my daily commute from a car to a bike had not only saved me money, but also lead me up the Seven Summits. Continuing that theme, about this time last year, we changed offices at work. We moved up to the second floor. And from the first day, I made a pact with myself…

The idea initially came about by chance. On day one in the new office, I needed the loo and couldn’t find it. I knew there was one on the ground floor, so I took the stairs to the gym toilet. When I got back to my desk, I was aware that my heart was pounding and I was breathing deeply! All I’d done was climb the stairs, but four flights of them had got my cardiovascular system in motion and the blood was seriously pumping.

Although I like my job (I’m a graphic designer), I do struggle with the inactivity of sitting in front of a desk all day. I often feel restless and find myself looking wistfully out of the window. I found out that afternoon that there was a loo on our level, but decided, from that point onwards, I was going to take the stairs whenever I needed to heed the call of nature…

Small lifestyle changes really can add up to some amazing stats

The next time I went down those stairs, I counted them – there are 50. I went home wondering how high the combined steps were? And then, how many times I’d have to go up those flights of stairs to get to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. I guessed that this would be achieved pretty quickly, and so my mind drifted further afield, to the magical Himalayas.

How many times would I need to climb those stairs to get to the top of Mount Everest…?

The next day I measured the height of an individual step, and it is 17cm. Everest is 8848 meters, or 884800cm. Divide this by 17 and that is 52047 individual steps. If someone said to me, ‘Timbo, you have to climb up 52047 steps‘ I’d probably say something rude. I’ve heard of tower running, and it holds very little appeal!

Tower running is not for me
I still wouldn’t fancy running up it…

Given that I work compressed hours four days a week, and that I’m probably in the office 45 weeks of the year (five weeks holiday, the odd sick day and the odd work from home day), the maths break down like this. 17cm x 50 steps = 850cm top to bottom. Everest is 884800cm, so divided by 850 = 1041 times per year. Divide 1041 by 45 weeks and that gives us 23.13 (let’s say 24) times per week. Divide this by four days and all of this means that I would need to go up those stairs six times a day, or in steps, 300 per day.

300 sounds much more enjoyable than 52047. I probably go the the loo four times a day. I’ll also usually head over to the canteen to grab some breakfast and/or lunch, plus I’ll go to the gym. So, by choosing those downstairs loos and taking the stairs, not the lift, then in 45 weeks, I’ve climbed Mount Everest! The infographic below illustrates this in weeks (the maths has been rounded up for simplicity, so you summit with a week to spare!).


Small lifestyle changes can lead to some impressive places


Small lifestyle changes to my daily commute and my time in the office mean that in the space of one year, I’ll climb Mount Everest six times – five on my bike, and once on my own two feet. I don’t know what this equates to in terms of muscle strength. But I do know that it makes me feel psychologically better when I tackle hilly races and ultras. Climbing the equivalent height of Mount Everest has to be better than taking the lift, or using the loos on the same floor, right?

I find it also helps mentally. I think of this post whenever I’m on those stairs. But I didn’t think of the end of the challenge until the end was in sight. Much like in ultras, I’m definitely not thinking of the finish line when I’m at the start line. I’ll be thinking of the next checkpoint, or the next camp. And once I’ve gone past that, I’ll think about the next one. All these little things really do help.

Writing this post has made me realise that my small lifestyle changes greatly benefit my leg and butt muscles, but not so much my upper body. As such, I’ve set myself a new tiny daily challenge to balance this out. This will take no more than 10 minutes each day. Maybe, once my upper body is a bit stronger, I can have a go at something like this guy! More details in a future post…

I’d love to learn more of what other folk do along similar lines – please share yours below!

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