StairWELL to Better Health

The title of this post is the lead-in on an existing CDC program, Healthier Worksite Initiative, that goes hand in hand with the Active Design movement (pun intended) to promote physical activity and to fight obesity. A previous PHC blog pointed out the high levels of adult and child obesity and the rising rates of diabetes due to obesity, along with the problem of food insecurity. The CDC initiative discusses transformation of workplace stairwells to encourage their use and promote health. Among the recommendations are:

  • Improve stairwell appearance (art, announcements, carpeting, themes, lighting, numbering the stairs from bottom to top)
  • Signage to the stairs to make them easy to find
  • Motivational signs, graffiti wall
  • Installing music (in counterpoise to elevator music!)
  • Tracking stair usage
  • Create awareness, supportive environments – including for those who cannot use stairs easily
    • BTW going up stairs is great for muscles and cardio, going down is harder on the joints

StairWELL is only one part of the Active Design Movement in America, which is heavily promoted and laid out by New York City’s Department of Design and Construction. This comprehensive report recommends urban design guidelines to create an Active City:

  • Develop and maintain mixed land use in city neighborhoods
  • Improve access to transit and transit facilities (this actually promotes more walking)
  • Improve access to plazas, parks, open spaces, and recreational facilities, and design these spaces to maximize their active use where appropriate
  • Improve access to full-service grocery stores and fresh produce
  • Design accessible, pedestrian-friendly streets with high connectivity, traffic calming features, landscaping, lighting, benches, and water fountains
  • Facilitate bicycling for recreation and transportation by developing continuous bicycle networks and incorporating infrastructure like safe indoor and outdoor bicycle parking

The design of buildings and their surroundings also contributes to physical activity:

  • Increase stair use among the able-bodied (see above)
  • Locate building functions to encourage brief bouts of walking to shared spaces such as mail and lunch rooms; provide appealing, supportive walking routes within buildings
  • Provide facilities that support exercise such as centrally visible physical activity spaces, showers, locker rooms, secure bicycle storage, and drinking fountains
  • Design building exteriors and massing that contribute to pedestrian-friendly urban environments and that include maximum variety and transparency, multiple entries, stoops, and canopies.

Marshall Kubota, MD

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