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Stairs are faster than elevators

December 17th, 2011

A light-hearted study in the latest Canadian Medical Association Journal compared how long it took for four subjects to travel between floors at a hospital in Saskatchewan, using a variety of routes ranging from one to six floors. The results: 13 seconds per floor via the stairs, and 36 seconds per floor using the elevator (including time spent waiting for the elevator). By their math, that means hospital workers would save 15 minutes each day by taking the stairs — and, as I wrote about last year, taking the stairs during your workday can also make a measurable difference to health.

The study abstract is here, and a news article is here. Of course, your mileage may vary: hospital workers move between floors quite frequently, unlike many office workers. Still, I almost always find I can beat the elevator by taking the stairs.

  1. james igoe
    December 17th, 2011 at 17:33 | #1

    but only if the building is small….. I currently work on a buildings 37th floor in NYC. Not only would it be impractical to go up and down the stairs several times a day, the speed and efficiency of the elevators would easily outshine shine using the stairs in such a large building.

  2. December 18th, 2011 at 02:03 | #2

    I’ve always said this. Nice to have data to back me up. I can’t stand waiting for the elevator.

  3. alex
    December 18th, 2011 at 03:22 | #3

    @James: But just think of how healthy you’d be! 😉

  4. Lisa
    December 18th, 2011 at 16:17 | #4

    While interesting, I think it’s also an example of how scientific studies can focus so intently on one little thing that they miss the bigger picture. (I don’t think that’s so much a *bad* thing as a thing people need to be aware of).

    Because in most situations there is probably some number of flights of stairs after which taking the elevator becomes faster as the waiting time is spread out over more floors and fatigue starts to set in for the stair climber, while the abstract just concludes that stairs is faster. That might not kick in at all in a 6 story building, or might only be for trips from the bottom to the top..

  5. alex
    December 18th, 2011 at 16:35 | #5

    @Lisa: Fair point. I should have made more clear that the study isn’t intended to be a “serious” scientific study. As the news article I linked to points out, it appears in “the CMAJ’s popular Holiday Reading section, an annual feature highlighting ‘quirky research, humorous satires and witty musings.'” Needless to say, for someone like @James (the commenter above who works on the 37th floor of a building), the math is somewhat different!

  6. Paul Wallis
    December 19th, 2011 at 03:18 | #6

    It also may not be practical when traveling to different floors accompanied with patients. Some may not be able to use the stairs for phyisical reasons. Other patients may demand to use elevators only despite being encouraged to use the stairs. I always take the stairs when traveling in my hospital when I’m on my own, but you do have to remember my hospital only really has 2 floors.

  7. Bman
    December 19th, 2011 at 05:16 | #7

    This reminds me of a review of studies on centenarians recently that ended up finding that the only common thread they could find between centenarians was that they all lived large portions of their lives in homes where they had to climb a lot of stairs everyday.

    [sorry, looked for the reference but couldn’t find it again.]

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