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Make Taking the Stairs Cool - Save $495 Million - Mayor Bloomberg and More

Updated on March 18, 2015

Health, Fitness, Exercise – A Winning Trio for Preventive Medicine

Do you take the stairs? Or do you only take the stairs in case of fire? Oh, those silly safety signs from the Fire Department have literally trained us monkeys wrong. We need to be smarter than this and actively seek to take the stairs whenever we can. From a fun video that seeks to make "taking the stairs" fun to Mayor Bloomberg who wishes to see legislation to encourage taking the stairs, let's review these proposals carefully.

Why are we looking closely at the stairs? Because we want to go green? No, because we as a populace are unhealthy. Have you ever stopped to ponder the irony that the most overlooked word in health care is the word “health”.With the United States facing major challenges in controlling rising health insurance costs at a time when the country is in a financial meltdown, it is time we finally put rhetoric aside and address true solutions. Mix in alarming statistics regarding the increase in obesity worldwide combined with the aging of baby boomers and it is time for American hospitals take a proactive stance on fitness.

“He who enjoys good health is rich, though he knows it not."

— Italian Proverb

Stairs = First Step to Fitness Success

Steps to Save our Health - White Staircase with Two people with Lime Green Background
Steps to Save our Health - White Staircase with Two people with Lime Green Background | Source

$495 million Spent on Avoidable Illness

Research clearly shows that inactivity breeds illness. A sedentary person whom is not overweight faces a far greater risk of illness and/or injury than an active individual. In the published report “Direct Costs of Physical Inactivity”[1].

The Minnesota Department of Health reported that an estimated $495 million was spent during the year 2000 treating diseases and conditions that would be avoided if all Minnesotans were physically active. This translates to more than 100 dollars annually for every man, woman, and child living in Minnesota.Imagine the statistics for the United States as a whole – 9 years later!

Operational Changes Are Needed

The statistics are clear, but is there a solution? Yes!

Operational changes are needed now for the rebranding of both fitness and exercise to have an impact and reverse this trend of fitness failure.

Hospital Call to Action - Operational Change is Needed

"Much talk has been made about the political system taking care of the health care crisis. But how can the health industry play the responsible citizen?"

REBRANDING NEEDED – CHANGING THE FITNESS PARADIGM For more than 50 years in the U.S., the medical community has published statistical data warning us of this “sedentary sickness” that is literally killing us both physically and financially. Reports on obesity from around the world mirror the results found in this country. What was originally a pressing health concern has become a worldwide crisis.

PROPOSAL – THE TRIO OF “HEALTH - FITNESS - EXERCISE” In order to rebrand fitness we must identify the possible change agents and better define the terms. The health of an individual starts with “fitness” with fitness being defined as everyday movement. Incremental daily physical activity serves as the “appetizer” to promote the real “meal” – the planned fitness activities - exercise. But we cannot simply state the problem, provide the recommended guidelines, we must create visual touch points and create examples to follow. As Nike’s iconic slogan states, “Just Do It!” The natural endorsers of fitness, our medical professionals, have been grossly underutilized. This organic relationship that hospital staff has with fitness and planned physical activity is the missing link. It is from leading by example that our medical professionals can begin this process of rebranding fitness and exercise. It is through our medical professionals that we can begin to learn by example And change perceptions of mobility and daily fitness to a desire for planned physical activity.

FITNESS PROMOTION NEEDED NOW Immobility is not a problem exclusive to the baby boomer generation; it is a worldwide epidemic that our children will inherit.  We need action now.  The three proposed changes are not only simple but also very low cost changes that will return large profits to the employers both in productivity/morale and in financial savings. Forever changing the paradigm of “fitness” will results in a healthier nation and a more efficient medical system.

Celebration of Beautiful Stairways

Modern Stairs
Modern Stairs


As we age, we grow wiser and learn that independence is one of our most valuable assets if not our most valuable asset. And from our need for independence, we learn the importance of mobility. We should embrace fitness at every turn and in every stairway.

Throughout all multilevel facilities - hospitals, clinics and wellness centers, green signs should be posted highlighting and encouraging the use of the stairs. Yes, there are financial savings to be realized by using the stairway. Beyond using less electricity the real savings are realized in the health/wellness of the individual. The important addition for promoting fitness is a simple green, friendly sign posted on the stairwell that serves to create a new paradigm for fitness by creating a visual touch point for patients, visitors, volunteers and the medical staff. It is this re-branding that celebrates both the privilege and the prestige of mobility. Taking the stairs is “your first step to fitness success” and the foray into a planned physical activity program called “exercise”.

This proposal is simply the addition of a green sign to highlight the location of a stairway; this is not to suggest eliminating other necessary safety signs (for example, security signs for safety for obstetrics and the many fire door signs throughout the facilitiies (”Fire Door – Keep Closed At All Times” and “Stop – Emergency Exit Only – Door is Alarmed”).

It is this re-branding that celebrates both the privilege and the prestige of mobility. Taking the stairs is “your first step to fitness success” and the foray into a planned physical activity program called “exercise”.

— Celebrate USA

“He who enjoys good health is rich, though he knows it not."

~Italian Proverb

Always Take The Stairs?

Does this mean always taking the stairs? Most certainly not, but taking the stairways when appropriate. When traveling between floors without any heavy loads. When traveling up one floor level, etc…. Or perhaps traveling down three flights when your hands are completely free.

2 - Encourage Written Prescriptions for Exercise

Physicians routinely offer prescriptions for exercise for rehabilitation but what about general exercise? And what about a discussion encouraging daily physical movement? Afterall, we do have the research to support these medical needs.

Written prescriptions are needed at the time of release from the hospital and also while a patient is within the hospital. If exercise is not prescribed, family members need to ask for prescriptions exercise along with prescribing what daily physical activities are appropriate for the patient.

Planned physical movement is needed every 4-8 hours even if the patient is bedridden. Perhaps it is even more critical if the patient is bedridden for any length of time.

Additionally, it is critical that we also include prescriptions of exercise to those struggling with mental illnesses. Likewise the diseases of affluences (diabetes, heart, etc…) need a prescription for exercise and a discussion of fitness with the individual patient.

If exercise is not prescribed, family members need to ask for prescriptions exercise along with prescribing what daily physical activities are appropriate for the patient.

— Celebrate USA

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states."

~ Carol Welch

Stairs Exercise Video - 2 Step Cross Over Lunge

Stairs Extreme Workout


Why will this rebranding effort work this time when we have not been successful in the past 50 years? Four factors ensure success:  1.) Achievable goals (starting with fitness and building to a planned exercise program) and 2.) An organic approach at the grass roots level (in marketing terms “celebrity seeding”. 3.) Creation of touch points - stairway signs and such medical staff actually using the stairways and finally 4.) The need for financial savings and prevention of suffering.

ACHIEVABLE GOALS:. Starting out with achievable goals, such as more daily activity – seeking the stairs, walking rather than riding, is the precursor to a planned exercise program.

ORGANIC CONNECTION: Our medical staff members are among the most admired and respected professionals in our society.  It is this segment of our society to whom we turn to when we are fighting disease, infection or other illnesses. Just as Michael Jordan’s credibility can sell sneakers, so too, our medical staff is the “local celebrity” who can effectively raise the prestige of fitness which will lead to re-branding of exercise. 

TOUCH POINTS:  A touch point or point of contact is the interface with the stakeholders – before, during and after a transaction.. It is through these added touch points (the visual – the green promotional sign on the stairway door) and the leadership (watching the medical staff use the stairs) that rebranding of exercise will occur.  We need to desire fitness, we need to desire exercise as much as we desire health because research has proven that physical movement specifically daily movement combined with planned physical movement is what delivers health.

PREVENT PAIN/ MAXIMIZE ROI  Our goal is to prevent pain, reduce the obesity rate, curb diseases associated with sedentary behavior and thus maximize our return on investment by lessening the need for health services.  We have the research to support the financial returns, we simply must develop a marketing plan to rebrand the ultimate preventative medicine – “fitness” partnered with exercise which truly does equal health.

New York Takes to the Stairs

It is the job of politicians to protect the the health and safety of the people. One mayor is taking action. I was pleased to see several reports about Mayor Bloomberg's executive order to promote "taking the stairs". Improving the health of New Yorkers has seen a push to lower sodium and salt intake along with a push to greater physical activity. If you have a good memory, you will recall Bloomberg outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003. The fight for health continues and this latest mayoral directive is heralded by this fitness professional.

Make Taking the Stairs Cool

The first wealth is health.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882


The number one weapon in our arsenal for the prevention of illness and injury should be clearly communicated – physical movement throughout the day - fitness. Early detection, diagnostic testing and weight/nutrition management are other tools utilized in preventive care. We cannot encourage an individual to sign up for an exercise program when taking the stairs, and/or walking is not considered an option. Our medical staff and hospital volunteers must set the example by choosing the stairways whenever appropriate. Hospitals, along with the insurance industry, should review their literature to ensure that fitness and exercise are established as the foremost choice for preventive care. Consistent documents set the framework as the first defense in the quest for a healthy life. Preventive care is often touted by hospitals but what is left out is the best free insurance for prevention of illness and injury – fitness.

Grand Celebration of Stairways

Mayo Clinic Atrium with Beautiful Stairway
Mayo Clinic Atrium with Beautiful Stairway

Lack of Support for Stairs in the Medical Setting

If medical facilities and hospitals do not celebrate the value that stairs can add to our physical health, perhaps their property managers could offer the stairs as a method to cut down upon electrical use.

How often have you entered an elevator and been the sole person on that elevator? How often have you calculated the minutes that you could have saved if you just took the stairs rather than waited?

In Rochester, Minnesota home of one of the greatest medical facilities in the world, home of some of the most beautiful marble clad stairways in the world, the way finder signs clearly show the direction to the extensive bank of elevators with nothing about the beautiful stairs ways.

Yes, many people visiting Mayo are not capable of the stairs, and yet the visual reminder that stairs could be an option to those who are healthy and able are not heralded in the overhead signs.

Don't believe me? Check out the photos I took of the gorgeous staircase and the adjoining signage. These photos were taken at the Mayo Building.

Making Taking The Stairs Fun!

Great Health Quote Ernest Hemingway

… My health is the main capital I have and I want to administer it intelligently.”

Ernest Hemingway 1899-1961

Health Care Discussions

While the debate that continues from WashingtonD.C. to our hometown, the author feels that we have forgotten that the first word in health care is “health”. Health is directly tied to both fitness and exercise. The sooner we recognize the direct relationship of this important trio the sooner we will recognize savings and begin to address the real issue at hand. With diseases of affluence and medical costs on the rise, our national health care must become a focus. As fitness and health care professionals, it is our duty to reach out and partner with others in the community to reverse the trends of the past. Let’s begin that climb and promote fitness by celebrating our stairways now!

The first step towards knowledge is to know that we are ignorant.

~Richard Cecil

Should the new health care plan include fitness memberships for preventative care?

See results

Should the government partially fund fitness for veterans?

See results

The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want.

~Ben Stein

Extreme Stair Workout

How Many Stairs Equal A Mile

Health Care Funding for Fitness

The US government has been trying to address fitness for over 50 years with very little success. In fact, now we have the highest obesity rate in history and perhaps in the world. Would a financial incentive to exercise help this situation - share with us your thoughts below in our survey.

If funding should be provided, should it be only to those who are "at risk" - the diabetic patient, the heart patient, or the clinically obese.

Research has shown that fitness can even prevent certain illnesses such as diabetes and substantially reduce heart problems. Those battling psychological diseases such as depression have also shown significant improvements. Given the medical research combined with the fact that fitness can save dollars by preventing illnesses or lessening the severity of illnesses, should the new health care package include partial funding for fitness memberships?


The author is a fitness advocate, not a physician. In all cases, consult your physician before any physical exercise - even taking the stairs.

Do you take the stairs?

See results

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.

~Tony Robbins

Fitness should be a way of life. It should be part of our normal routine, it should be part of our buildings. To build a better tomorrow where we are healthy, active and mobile, we must start with concrete and build stairways that are accessible. Yes, we have ADA legislation and this author applauds that initiative but where is the initiative to empower us to take fitness into our own hands? Take the stairs today at work, at home, at the hospital; the first step is always the hardest.

© 2009 Ken Kline


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    Post Comment

    • CelebrateUSA profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken Kline 

      3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois


      Thank you so much for sharing. Always delight in your hubs and no, I will never tire of angels.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      You are so right....we can prevent so many illnesses by simple exercise that would not even have to be thought of as 'exercise' taking the stairs, walking a few blocks to a store the bank or the post office.

      We are too sedentary for sure.

      And the walk or run causes those little endorphins to get busy we feel good all over.

      Well done

      Voted up++++ and shared

      Angels are on the way to you this afternoon ps

    • Lgali profile image


      8 years ago

      I love this article thanks


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