Reminders Help Encourage Stair Use for Daily Physical Activity
Experts often recommend avoiding the elevator and taking the stairs instead as an easy way to bump up daily physical activity levels. But through the course of the day, it’s easy to forget and very convenient to just hit the “up” button. What we need are small reminders found a study conducted in New York City and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Karen K Lee MD of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene posted prompts within a three-story health clinic, a 10-story affordable housing building and an 8-story academic site. The signs read “Burn Calories, Not Electricity” which aimed to motivate more people to take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. The signs immediately increased stair use between 9.2 and 34.7% at all locations.
“Human-made environments in everyday life offer numerous opportunities for maintaining health, controlling weight and preventing disease,” Lee said. “One of those health opportunities is stair climbing, a vigorous activity which can burn more calories than jogging.”
The best news, however, was that the simple reminder helped continue the walking trend even up to nine months later. New York City officials purposely left the prompts in place and continue to provide the free signs to owners and managers of public and private buildings who request them.
“So far, we’ve distributed over 26,000 signs to owners and managers of about 1,000 buildings including residential, worksites, hospitals and academic centers,” said Lee.
“Human-made environments in everyday life offer numerous opportunities for maintaining health, controlling weight and preventing disease,” Lee said. “One of those health opportunities is stair climbing, a vigorous activity which can burn more calories than jogging.” In fact, climbing just two flights of stairs everyday without any other change could potentially result a loss of 6lbs per year.
Other reasons to take the stairs instead of the elevator include improving cardiovascular function and strengthening and toning the leg muscles. For those who currently live an inactive lifestyle, adding a few stairs into the course of the day can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, relieve stress,
Beginners, keep in mind that stair climbing is quite strenuous. Begin slowly by taking one flight at a time and gradually increase the number of stairs you do. The more you go up and down the stairs, the stronger you’ll become and the easier it will be. Those with knee problems, arthritis or a heart or lung condition should check with their physicians before beginning any increase in activity levels.
Lee, K.K. et al. (2012). Promoting Routine Stair Use Evaluating the Impact of a Stair Prompt Across Buildings. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2012 Feb; Volume 42, Issue 2 , Pages 136-141
Meyer P et al (2010). Stairs instead of elevators at workplace: cardioprotective effects of a pragmatic intervention. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil 2010 Oct; 17(5):569-75.
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