Why you should take the stairs

It is well documented that the sedentary lifestyles we lead today are linked to illnesses like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. We also know that even small amounts of incidental exercise can help counteract the effects of sitting and not moving your body. Just taking the stairs instead of an escalator at a shopping centre for instance can make a difference. It is true though that there are people for whom stairs are difficult and an escalator is necessary. So the question becomes how do you encourage people who are able to do so to take the stairs? That is what was examined in a new study.

The study involved the researchers monitoring stairs and escalators in seven connected shopping centres in Montreal, Canada. Over 35 days the researchers counted the number of people choosing to use stairs and escalators between 10.30am and 12 noon and then 12.30pm to 2.30pm. A total of 33,793 people were counted in total over the course of the observations.

The data revealed that the distance between a stairway and an escalator had a significant effect on how likely people were to take the stairs. If you double the distance between a stairway and an escalator you increase the likelihood that people will take the stairs by 91 per cent. Importantly that doubling of distance saw a 71 per cent increase in the amount of people going up the stairs.

Previous research has shown that people’s willingness to take the stairs is impacted by the width of the stairway and how visible it is. Now we know that the proximity of stairways to easier alternatives is also a factor and this should be taken into account when we design our buildings.

It is a reminder that health is about far more than popping a pill. It is in fact a whole of life pursuit and we need to think about it when we design our world, even our shopping spaces. True future planning is about building a world that supports life and wellbeing and you can’t do that by thinking about public policy in terms of the economy alone.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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