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Physical Activity: Stairwell Use


  • Physical activity,
  • Physical environment,
  • Community,
  • Facilities & organizations,
  • Schools,
  • Workplace,

Stairwell use

Research shows that stairwell use can increase levels of physical activity1-3,5.

Promoting stair use is a creative way to engage communities in physical activity. Creating maps of stair options around your city or town can encourage residents to get active.

Ways to start

  • Collaborate with relevant groups to create motivational signs to inspire people to use stairs.
  • Tailor motivational messages to all age groups and demographics.6-14
  • Post signs in multiple locations such as stairwells, by elevators, cafeteria, public bulletin boards.
  • Collaborate with employers, building facilities departments and/or municipalities to develop guidelines or policies to ensure stairwells are well maintained such as clean, garbage cans available, adequate lighting.
  • Add artwork or play music to increase stairwell use.4

For further action to increase physical activity in your community, see

Multi-component community-wide interventions that increase awareness about and provide opportunities for physical activity in your community will have greater impact than implementing one-off strategies.

Evaluation measures the impact of all the hard work that went into developing a community initiative. Evaluating impact examines:

  1. What you expect to learn or change
  2. What you measure and report
  3. How to measure impact

What you expect to learn about stairwell use may include:

  • Learning that the strategy is being implemented as planned
  • Improved appearance and appeal of the stairwell areas
  • Increased policies that include stairwell maintenance
  • Increase use of stairwells

References –Stairwell Use

  1. Kahn EB, Ramsey LT, Bronson RC, et al. The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity. A systematic review. American journal of preventive medicine. 2002;22(4 Suppl): 73-107.
  2. Ker J, Eves F, Carroll D. Six-month observational study of prompted stair climbing. Preventive medicine. 2001;33(5):422-427.
  3. Kerr J, Eves FF, Carroll D. Getting more people on the stairs: the impact of a new message format. Journal of health psychology. 2001;6(5):495-500.
  4. Boutelle KN, Jeffery RW, Murray DM, Schmitz MK. Using signs, artwork, and music to promote stair use in a public building. American journal of public health. 2001;91(12):2004-2006.
  5. Anderson RE, Franckowiak SC, Snyder J, Bartlett SJ, Fontaine KR. Can inexpensive signs encourage the use of stairs? Results from a community intervention. Annals of internal medicine. 1998;129(5):363-369.
  6. Williams G, Hamm MP, Shulhan J, Vandermeer B, Hartling L. Social media interventions for diet and exercise behaviours: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ Open. 2014;4(2):e003926. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003926. Available from:
  7. BC Ministry of Health. Evidence review: healthy living – physical activity and healthy eating. CORE public health functions for BC. Victoria (BC): BC Ministry of Health; 2006. Available from:
  8. All-Party Commission on Physical Activity. Tackling physical inactivity: a coordinated approach. London (UK): All-Party Commission on Physical Activity; 2014. Available from:
  9. Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2002;22(4S):67-72. Available from:
  10. World Health Organization (WHO). Interventions on diet and physical activity: what works: summary report. Geneva (SW): World Health Organization; 2009. Available from:
  11. MacArthur Group Inc. Physical activity strategy for Prince Edward Island 2004-2009. Charlottetown (PE): MacArthur Group; 2004. Available from:
  12. Garcia J, Beyers J, Uetrecht C, et al. Healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weights guideline for public health in Ontario. Toronto (ON): Cancer Care Ontario, Program in Evidence-based Care; 2010. Available from:
  13. Committee on Physical Activity, Health, Transportation and Land Use. Does the built environment influence physical activity? Examining the evidence. Transportation Research Board Special Report 282. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press; 2005. Available from:
  14. Community Preventive Services Task Force, CDC. Campaigns and informational approaches to increase physical activity: Community-wide campaigns. The community guide. Washington (DC): CDC; 2014. Available from: