We've all heard that taking the stairs, rather than riding passively in an elevator or on an escalator, is a good way to be more physically active and strengthen that heart.
But building designers, apparently, haven't been stair-friendly, according to a study appearing in this month's Southern Medical Journal. Co-authors Dr. Ishak A. Mansi of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, and wife, architect Nardine M. Mansi, call for builders to make the stairs the star of office buildings, department stores and the like.
"Stairs are frequently hidden from entrances, with only small signs denoting their locations, typically in connection to the fire exit," the authors write.
They say fire exits are usually guarded by heavy doors, not carpeted, and not air-conditioned. They also report that architects find it challenging enough to comply with current building codes emphasizing fire safety and accessibility.
"As a result," the report concludes, "a conscious focus on health does not enter the design process."
So, what exactly can designers do to make stairs more attractive to people used to taking the easy way?
The authors suggest carpeting and air conditioning. And, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention building in Atlanta, officials found that playing music in stairwells and displaying motivational signs significantly increased the use of stairs.