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Elevator or stairs on a cruise ship? Your choice could make you live longer, study finds


From catching up on your rest to exploring new ports of call and enjoying all of the ship's amenities, it can be difficult to squeeze in a workout on a cruise.

Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you have to completely abandon your fitness goals. When it comes to navigating the ship, you can incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Rather than taking the elevator, opt for the stairs to get your heart pumping and burn a few extra calories. 

According to a new meta-analysis presented at a European Society of Cardiology conference, people who routinely climb stairs have about a 39% lower likelihood of death from heart disease compared to those who didn't climb stairs. 


Dr. Sophie Paddock of the University of East Anglia and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust in the UK looked at data from about 480,000 participants with her colleagues. The ages of the individuals spanned from the mid-30s to mid-80s. 

She said that the findings align with existing research pointing to the benefits of engaging in moderate-intensity exercise.

"I was surprised that such a simple form of exercise can reduce all-cause mortality," said Paddock. 

Cruisers who are trying to incorporate more movement into their daily routine can easily do so by climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator

Celebrity Ascent

A separate study showed that climbing as few as five flights of stairs per day per day lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%. However, according to Dr. Carlin Long, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, the average individual should aim for at least six:

"I think if people are able to achieve six to ten flights of exercise on stairs a day, that...would be a good target," he said, "Exercise is one of the best approaches to cardiovascular fitness," with stair climbing being an easy and convenient way to achieve fitness goals because "it doesn't require a gym membership."

Though the fitness centers onboard cruise ships are free to use, stair climbing remains a valuable option considering its accessibility. As you move about the ship from your cabin to the lido deck or Main Dining Room, you'll be gaining muscle and burning off the calories from the nightly dessert you've been having!


"Climbing stairs can be a wonderful mix of both aerobic exercise and resistance training," said Dr. Tamara Horwich, a cardiologist at UCLA, "You are building up those leg muscles by having to pull your weight up to the next stair." This holds significant value considering that just 24% of adults in the United States meet the recommended targets for aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise. 

Choosing to take the stairs also ensures you won't have any lengthy wait times for an overcrowded lift


With thousands of passengers on a single ship and only so many elevators, it shouldn't come as a surprise if you find yourself waiting longer than usual during peak times, such as around dinner or when guests are returning from port. 

Plus, if you're in good health, it's common courtesy to step aside and allow those with mobility issues on the elevators first. This leaves space for those who truly need it, reducing congestion and wait times. 

Crowded elevators can feel hot and cramped. Stairwells tend to be quieter than bustling elevator banks, especially when hundreds of passengers are released from a show or activity at the same time. 


If you aren't traveling too far, taking the stairs can often be more efficient, allowing you to spend more time enjoying all of the amenities onboard. Even if you think taking the elevator will be faster, crowded lifts tend to stop on multiple floors, which can be annoying if you're trying to go from Deck 8 to Deck 11. 

Avoiding crowded elevators is better for your health, too, as it will reduce the risk of you picking up an illness. Germs can easily spread on high-contact surfaces, such as elevator buttons. Additionally, illnesses tend to spread more easily in confined spaces. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets containing the virus travel through the air, and they usually linger in enclosed spaces like elevators. 


You never know when you'll find hidden gems, either. When I sailed onboard Symphony of the Seas, I was surprised to discover the piano staircase leading up to the Windjammer buffet. By taking the stairs, you inevitably explore more of the ship than you would if you solely relied on the elevators. 

Even if you don't find anything super unique or out of the ordinary, you'll be able to admire the neat artwork and photography on each floor. 

Read more: 20 rules of cruise ship etiquette no one ever tells you (but should)

To make taking the stairs easier, consider where you'll be spending a lot of your time


If you know that you're going to want to spend your days lounging on the lido deck, it won't do you much good to book a cabin on the lowest decks, as you'll have to walk up more flights of stairs than you would if you chose a deck towards the top of the ship. 

Moreover, the buffet tends to be close to the pool deck, so by selecting a cabin on a higher deck, you'll be closer to many popular amenities. You may feel more inclined to rely on the elevator if you have to travel from Deck 3 to Deck 11 each day. 

Alternatively, you may decide you want a stateroom closer to the ship's atrium, allowing you to access popular spaces like the theater and Main Dining Room at ease. This will also give you easier access to the gangway when in port, which will make disembarkating for shore excursions more convenient. 

In addition to taking the stairs, follow these other tips to remain healthy throughout your voyage


While onboard, you will want to drink as much water as possible, especially if you're indulging in more alcoholic beverages than usual, as staying hydrated will help support your immune system. 

Similarly, frequent hand washing is smart to reduce the risk of contracting illnesses, such as norovirus. Whenever you go to the buffet, you'll want to wash your hands before you begin grabbing the serving utensils and after. It's highly unlikely that everyone onboard will adhere to standard hygiene practices. 

In port, you may want to opt for adventurous excursions. Rather than choosing the leisurely beach day, selecting a tour that's more strenuous will ensure that you're getting some activity in, whether it's snorkeling in Cozumel or exploring ancient ruins in Mexico. Excursions that involve a lot of sitting often aren't the best way to make use of your short time ashore, either, as you'll spend more time in transit between highlights. 

Read more: 10 tips to make your next cruise healthier

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