Stairs are faster than elevators


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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.

8 Replies to “Stairs are faster than elevators”

  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. 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..

  3. @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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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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