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Study: Stairs are faster than elevators—and a healthier alternative, too.

Consumer Reports News: December 12, 2011 05:23 PM

Waiting for a high-rise building's elevator is a certain necessity in modern metro areas. But a new study says in many cases, using the stairs will be faster—and a healthier alternative to mechanical lifts.

The study was produced by a team of doctors with the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and reported today by the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The challenge, according to lead researcher Dr. Thomas Wilson, was to determine if there was any speed advantage to the seven-story hospital's elevators over its stairwells.

In examining 14 vertical trips made by four hospital staffers throughout the course of several days, Dr. Wilson and his team found the average trip by stairs took just over 13 seconds. And depending on which elevator bank was used, travel by mechanical means took nearly as three times as long—about 36 and 38 seconds.

The chief culprit to the elevator's loss: Waiting for the lifts to arrive.

And taking the stairs didn't tire out staffers—from 26 to 67 years old—either.

"There was no significant difference in fatigue between participants," wrote the researchers. "All participants felt they could continue their daily activities immediately after every trip."

Dr. Wilson and the research team acknowledge that the study's extremely small sample size and the hospital's particular structure might be seen as limiting factors. And it was assumed that time spent waiting for and riding an elevator was "wasted. But "some staff could use this time to consult colleagues or electronic information sources," said the research report.

Still, by their calculations, staffers could save about 15 minutes each workday by taking the stairs. "This, plus the benefit of increased fitness, should convince hospital staff to take the stairs whenever possible," concluded the researchers.

Elevator or stairs? [Canadian Medical Association Journal]
Taking the stairs makes you more fit, saves you time, study says [Los Angeles Times]
Stairs can get you there faster than elevators [Reuters]

Paul Eng

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