Convincing people to climb stairs


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In light of the Jockology column on stair climbing that I just posted, I found this post on the Obesity Panacea blog really interesting:

In this new study, Megan Grimstvedt and colleagues placed signs near the elevators of 4 university buildings in San Antonio. The sign said simply “Walking up stairs burns almost 5 times as many calories as riding an elevator” and included an arrow directing people to the nearest staircase, as well as a cartoon of the school mascot walking up a flight of stairs…

At baseline, only 13% of people used hidden staircases, while 43% of people used visible staircases. Even more interesting is that overall stair use increased 34% as a result of the intervention, an increase which persisted 4 weeks after the signs had been removed.

There’s more data and analysis in the original post. Time to make some signs!

3 Replies to “Convincing people to climb stairs”

  1. The baseline 43% doesn’t jive with what I see every day in subway stations. Maybe the difference between an elevator and an escalator? And rush hour commuting vs other times? I wonder what would happen if they posted signs in subway stations. Can’t you just see the optimizations people will be doing in their heads? Ok forget it – I like the unclogged stairs.

  2. @barnee Yeah, that’s certainly not the case out at Jane Station either! But traffic patterns would be highly context-dependent, so it’s not hard to imagine a university building where most of the users are young, most of the trips are up or down a single storey, and the elevators are relatively congested immediately before and after classes.

    Speaking of subway escalators, I was surprised to learn (in the comments to the Globe article) that the TTC’s official policy is now that everyone should stand still on escalators — no more “stand right, walk left.” Now that’s depressing (even though it’s for safety and legal liability reasons)!

  3. My office is on the second floor of my building – a nugatory stair climb. One day, my computer was stolen out of my office while I was on vacation. My company complained to the building management, and the response was to lock the doors on the stairs from the “going up” side.

    This was a piece of what they call “security theater”; it did nothing to enhance security because the stairs just deposit you in a lobby, from which entrance to our offices is controlled by locked doors anyway (and a thief can still take the elevator.) But the point was not to increase security, but to make a concrete response to the complaint in a way that was inexpensive and unlikely to draw further complaints.

    From which one can deduce: practically nobody was taking the stairs up to the second floor!

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