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Take the Stairs … for Health

Note from PCJ Editor Wayne Senville:

How often do you use the stairs when there's an elevator available? Some public health advocates and architects are starting to give more attention to the value of stairs as a physical fitness tool.

Here's some of what Alex Pasternack just had to say in, "If You Build It, They Will Walk," in GOOD.Is (Jan. 6, 2010)

"An idea quietly floated by New York City health commissioner Thomas Farley this summer might have sounded like a sinister joke to the city’s tired office workers and walk-up dwellers: make elevators smaller and slower. But to public-health experts, the notion -- part of an effort to encourage more walking-friendly design -- has legs. 'We have become very good at engineering physical activity out of our lives, and the price of this is staggering,' says Richard J. Jackson, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health, who considers stair-climbing a superior and cheaper alternative to gym membership.

Increasingly, designers are applying walking-oriented urban-planning ideas to buildings, and some see elevators as the architectural equivalent of the value meal: unhealthy, unsustainable, and bad for social exchange. Provide people with nicer, more centrally located stairs where they can interact with others, some designers say, and they’ll skip the elevator."

Take a look also at an interesting piece we ran back in 1992 by historian John Stilgoe, "Walking Into Trouble: Planning and Physical Un-Fitness."