Several recent studies have shown a link between health and stair usage. One recently completed study shows that people who live in stairs-only apartment buildings (that is, buildings without elevators) live an average of three years longer than do people who live in buildings with both elevators and stairs. A second study shows that elderly residents of buildings with elevators make, on average, twice as many visits to doctors each year as do residents of buildings without elevators. Furthermore, several doctor's offices are reporting that residents of stairs-only buildings scored higher than average on questionnaires administered to new patients, in which the patients were asked to rate several aspects of their own health (e.g., fitness, sleep quality, susceptibility to injury, etc.). The clearest explanation for these findings is that the moderate daily exercise required of residents who must use the stairs instead of elevators increases people's health and longevity.

Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.

In this article, the author cites three findings, all of which seem to suggest that people who climb stairs regularly are healthier. Reasonable though this explanation might appear, we cannot safely claim that it is the only one that can reasonably account for the facts presented in the argument. Therefore, we must thoroughly consider the following explanations, which rival the proposed one in the argument.

To begin with, in the first study, the author attributes the longer lifespan to more exercise due to the absence of elevators in the buildings. There is some truth to this explanation, but we will be enlightened about the reasons for longer lifespans when we start to think about what causes the two groups of buildings to have elevators or not. The buildings in the study that did not have elevators may be located in less populated suburban areas. Therefore the floors were generally low and did not need elevators. Because there are fewer people, the environment will be better, which will lead to a longer life expectancy for people living in these places. In addition, people who choose to live in the suburbs tend to place more importance on the quality of life, and they adopt a healthier lifestyle resulting in a longer life expectancy. By contrast, buildings located in densely populated areas tend to have higher floors and therefore require elevators. These places tend to be densely populated CBDs, where life is stressful, and the environment is more inferior. In addition, people here may not have as high a demand for quality of life. All of these factors can lead to a shorter life expectancy for people living here.

In the second study, the author hypothesized that elderly people living in buildings with elevators were more unhealthy so they would visit the doctor more often than those living in buildings without elevators. However, it is also possible that the elevator was more convenient for the elderly to get to the hospital, or that the building with the elevator happened to be located near the hospital. In contrast, in buildings with only stairs, the elderly themselves are reluctant to go down the stairs, or these houses are located far from the hospital. In summary, it is possible that the elderly’s willingness to go to the hospital or the ease of access to the hospital may have contributed to the differences in frequency of hospital visits.

In the third study, some doctors reported that people living in buildings with only stairs scored higher on a health questionnaire for new patients. This may be due, first of all, to the fact that respondents’ perceptions of the illnesses covered by the questionnaires themselves are highly subjective. For example, these people may themselves suffer from some chronic diseases, but these chronic illnesses themselves do not affect their daily life, so they would perceive themselves as healthy when answering the questionnaire. In addition to this, because it is a subjective survey and not an objective study, people do not want to be in a sick body, so they are more likely to say that they are healthier.

Finally, even if we concede that the residents in the three studies who lived in buildings with only stairs were healthier, we need to consider other factors contributing to their better health. First of all, it is possible that the people living in these buildings have higher physical fitness levels, have higher incomes and therefore a higher quality of life and therefore healthier bodies, or have healthier habits.

In conclusion, while the author’s explanation may hold, I remain open to different explanations that also help to illustrate the facts presented in this argument. Unless the author offers clarification, I remain doubtful that the author’s explanation is the only possibility.

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