Imagine if Americans, as a group, spent just two minutes per day taking the stairs (the equivalent of climbing about six flights). Studies have shown that this activity alone would overcome the weight-gain trend that adults are currently going undergoing in the United States. Moreover, stair-climbing is an inexpensive workout.
Jennifer 8. Lee (cool name, huh?) of the New York Times’ City Room Blog posted a fascinating article today exploring efforts – both architectural and behavioral – to get New Yorkers off the elevators and into stairways. While we don’t have quite as many high-rise buildings here in Southeast Michigan, there are often opportunities to “hoof it” instead of jumping into an elevator. (By the way — it’s much easier on the knees to take the stairs up, apparently. Feel free to take the elevator down . . .)
More on this fascinating attempt to change human behavior positively through a combination of smart urban planning and public health messages, after the jump . . .
So, what needs to be done to implement a stair-climbing strategy? In the long-term, new buildings should include stairways that are “user-friendly.” They should be well-lit, wide, inviting, near the entrance (indeed, more obvious than elevators), and clearly marked – in sum, they should be “primary, prominent, pleasant, and preferred.” In the short-term, building owners and residents can post signs encouraging residents and tenants to consider their health and the environment when deciding whether or not to call for the elevator or to take the stairs.
The goal is to build physical activity into people’s daily routines by “engineering” it into their lives. One of the side effects to this exercise routine – it can save building owners a lot on their electricity bill.
Key Points from the NYC Health Department:
Increase Stair Use
- just 2 minutes of stair climbing a day burns enough calories to prevent average U.S. adult annual weight gain
- men climbing 20-34 floors of stairs per week (~3-5 floors per day) had a >20% lower risk of stroke
- elevators also routinely account for 3-10% of a building’s energy use
Create or improve access to places for physical activity
- increases energy expenditure and leisure-time physical activity
- weight loss and decreases in body fat are also reported in most of these studies
Improve walkability through street-scale and community-scale design
- e.g. improving street lighting, increasing safety of street crossing, enhancing street landscaping can result in 35-161% increase in physical activity (e.g. walking)
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