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J Phys Act Health. 2013 May;10(4):556-62. Epub 2012 Sep 11.

Architectural design and physical activity: an observational study of staircase and elevator use in different buildings.

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Dept of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.



The indoor built environment has the potential to influence levels of physical activity. However, the extent to which architectural design in commercial buildings can influence the percentage of people choosing to use the stairs versus elevators is unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine if buildings with centrally located, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing staircases result in a greater percentage of people taking the stairs.


Direct observations of stair and elevator use were conducted in 3 buildings on a university campus. One of the buildings had a bank of 4 centrally located elevators and a fire escape stairwell behind a steel door. The other 2 buildings had centrally located staircases and out-of-the-way elevators.


The percentage of people who ascended the stairs was 8.1% in the elevator-centric building, compared with 72.8% and 81.1% in the 2 stair-centric buildings (P < .001). In addition, the percentage of people who descended the stairs was 10.8% in the first building, compared with 89.5% and 93.7% in the stair-centric buildings (P < .001).


The results of the current study suggest that if buildings are constructed with centrally located, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing staircases, a greater percentage of people will choose to take the stairs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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