'Take the stairs instead of the escalator': Effect of environmental prompts on community stair use and implications for a national 'small steps' campaign

M. S. Dolan, L. A. Weiss, R. A. Lewis, A. Pietrobelli, M. Heo, M. S. Faith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

44 Scopus citations


The US government initiated a national health campaign targeting 100 'small step' lifestyle changes to combat obesity. Small Step #67 advocates stair instead of escalator usage in public settings. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effects of motivational signs prompting stair use over escalator use on pedestrians' stair usage in commuter settings. Eight studies, testing the effects of motivational prompts on stair vs. escalator usage in public settings, were reviewed. Participant and study attributes were descriptively coded. Effect size was calculated as the change in percent units of stair users during the intervention phases vs. the baseline phase. The average study included ∼45 000 observations that were recorded across an average of 15 weeks of intervention. The mean ± SD change in percent units of stair users was 2.8% ± 2.4% (P < 0.001), and effects were twice as large in females (4.8%) as in males (2.4%). The number of stairs/building, baseline stair use, and total intervention weeks predicted change in stair use, although the effects were clinically miniscule. In a hypothetical city intervention, we projected that a 2.8% increase in stair usage would result in a weight loss and/or weight gain prevention of 300 g/person/year among new stair users. In sum, point-of-decision motivational signs may help communities attain Small Step #67. However, the singular impact of this community intervention on correcting energy imbalance may be minimal, having slight impact itself on reducing the national obesity prevalence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalObesity Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006



  • Environment
  • Exercise/physical activity
  • Overweight/obesity prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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