How Well Does IE’s Vertical Race Promote Happiness Through Exercise?


The IE Vertical Race took place on March 20th, on International Happiness Day, and in the middle of IE’s Happiness Week. So, how well does the Vertical Race promote happiness and mental wellbeing? If you have not taken the well-being seminar yet or you forgot what it covered, you might be puzzled about what running up 24 flights of stairs has to do with happiness. If you are a sedentary person, you might even think that an event like this sounds like a nightmare. However, research shows that events like IE’s Vertical Race are actually helpful for both physical and mental well-being. Physical activity releases endorphins. These are often referred to as natural mood lifters because they reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. There is even research suggesting that exercise improves sleep patterns, as well as memory and concentration. Therefore, if you feel sad, tired or distracted, try running up IE’s many flights of stairs. You will probably feel better – especially after your calves stop aching. 

There are other ways that events like the Vertical Race can improve your mental health. Evidence shows that exercising with others, particularly at moderate intensities, can foster cooperative social bonds and community cohesion. This gives students a sense of belonging and acceptance. It also helps them create new friendships and build support networks, which have been found to improve mental health. According to Lazarus and Folkman’s stress coping theories, we view events as particularly stressful when we feel that we cannot handle them. Knowing that we can count on other people for help and emotional support makes us more likely to see difficult events as things we can handle, and therefore make these events feel less stressful. As a result, exercising together in events such as IE’s Vertical Race can improve IE’s sense of community, and indirectly help make the university experience more fun for everyone. 

That being said, a lot of people can be reluctant to participate in sports events and group exercise, even though research shows that it can help improve both mental and physical wellbeing. This is usually because they had negative experiences with exercise when they were younger. One study describes how experiences like always being picked last in Physical Education (PE) classes can reduce willingness to participate in sports and exercise in the future, especially when these experiences are accompanied by condescension or mockery. Other people grew up in environments where sports quickly became hyper-competitive. This can cause burnout for some former young athletes, or sap the fun out of the experience for people who prefer to treat sports as low-stakes games. Finally, being the only beginner in a group of experts can be intimidating for most of us. If events are perceived as being for experienced athletes, not many beginners will be willing to participate. 

If we want the well-being benefits that come from physical activity to be enjoyed by everyone, we need events like IE’s Vertical Race to cater to everyone, from experienced athletes to unfit beginners. Overall, I would say the Vertical Race does this fairly well. Firstly, the event encourages participants to basically adjust the difficulty level to best suit them. If you want to, you can race up the stairs as fast as you can and challenge yourself to achieve the best time possible. If you are a competitive person, there are prizes for the fastest runners (speaking of which, congratulations are due to Samer Roz for winning first place with an impressive time of 4 minutes and 51 seconds). 

However, the event page on IE Connects also makes it very clear that it is okay to walk instead. Although 24 flights of steps can seem daunting, I am happy to report that walking them is perfectly doable even if you are not athletic at all. I cannot speak for everyone who did the event, but in my experience nobody looked down on you for walking. The only issue was that the event promoted different walking and running categories, with the schedule reinforcing this by stating that the runners would leave first, followed by the walkers. However, it was very unclear where you were supposed to go in order to walk, and there was no clear division between the two groups. This made me and some others who intended to walk a little nervous, as we were not sure whether we were in the right place and did not want to accidentally join the runners. 

In conclusion, the IE Vertical Race does an excellent job of promoting happiness and wellbeing through exercise. The mere fact of getting students to all do physical activity together not only releases endorphins which improve their moods, it also helps foster a sense of community and belonging. Furthermore, the event was not just welcoming and enjoyable for athletic students eager to compete for first place, but also for casual runners and mostly sedentary beginners. As such, the Vertical Race not only helped promote physical activity, it did so in a way that helped it reach students of different fitness levels. 

Featured image by: Instagram

Sabina Narvaez
Sabina Narvaez
Originally from Mexico, but mostly grew up abroad and has Spanish nationality. Studies Philosophy, Politics, Law and Economics and mostly writes about these topics. Also interested in sustainability.

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