Vertical vs. horizontal distance to classes: an experiment


This quarter, I am lucky to have all of my classes very close to my dorm. In these cold winter months, it is nice to basically roll out of bed and not travel miles and miles to get to class. It takes very little effort to get to my classroom buildings, but most of the buildings have quite a few stairs–possibly too many.


If I count the number of steps I take to get to my various Winter Quarter 2006 classes and compare them with the number of stairs I must climb to get to the classrooms, I will have traveled a higher vertical distance than horizontal distance.


I counted the number of steps I took in stride length to each building, starting from the moment I walked out of my dorm until the moment I walked into the classroom building. I did not take into account which door of my dorm I exited from–though they are far apart from each other, those steps are taken in the warmth. For the purposes of this experiment, indoor horizontal steps are not physically exerting and are therefore not a problem.

I then counted each stair/step I took inside the building. Again, once in the building, I did not count horizontal strides.

I let one stride length equal one stair/step for this lab. I am counting only a one-way trip–coming down stairs is not difficult, and the stride length would be the same and the numbers would cancel out.

I multiplied each of the numbers by the number of times each week I go to that class to get a total number of strides and stairs per week. For example, my Hebrew class meets three times a week, but my journalism lab meets only once.


Hebrew II, Kresge Centennial Hall, fourth floor, three times a week:
-125 strides x 3 times/week = 375 strides/week
-60 stairs x 3 times/week = 180 stairs/week

Modern Hebrew Literature in Translation, Harris Hall, third floor, three times a week:
-120 strides x 3 times/week = 360 strides/week
-49 stairs x 3 times/week = 147 stairs/week

Explorations of Misperception (Freshman Seminar), Harris Hall, second floor, two times a week:
-120 strides x 2 times/week = 240 strides/week
-37 stairs x 2 times/week = 74 stairs/week

Editing and Writing the News (Lab), Fisk Hall, third floor, once a week:
-83 strides x 1 time/week = 83 strides/week
-51 stairs x 1 time/week = 51 stairs/week

Editing and Writing the News (Lecture), McCormick Tribune Center, bottom floor, once a week:
-115 strides x 1 time/week = 115 strides/week
-0 stairs/steps x 1 time/week  = 0 strides/week

-1,173 strides/week
-452 stairs/week

I walk approximately 2.5 times as many horizontal strides as vertical stairs.


These data did not support my hypothesis. While I do travel a high vertical distance, it is nowhere near as far as I travel horizontally. It feels like more stairs than there actually are because of the physical shape I am in when I reach the top of the stairs–often huffing, puffing, and gasping for air. Walking horizontally on flat ground like in this Prairie State doesn’t have as big of an effect on my physical well-being.


My dorm is in an ideal location, so close to all of my classes. I should be thankful of this and not complain of having to walk up two, three, or four flights of stairs.

Further Investigation

Do I walk farther to my nearest class or to my dining hall across the street?


2 thoughts on “Vertical vs. horizontal distance to classes: an experiment

  1. There are several problems with your procedure.

    It is obvious that you are not a science student.

    However, you cannot possibly compare a stride to a step. They are not equal in any way, espcially if your hypothesis compares the “horizontal distance” and “vertical distance.”

    Therefore, I recommend you re-measure. However, this will require you to measure the height of each step. For this part, you can ignore the horizontal distance of the steps, as the work is a change in potential energy (mostly), and the horizontal effect is negligible. In addition, you should measure your stride, or obtain a meter-wheel and measure the distance accurately.


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