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New York City health campaign nudges public to "burn calories, not electricity"

On a recent tromp through the airport, I did something I haven't done in a while: deliberately took the stairs instead of the escalator. For a while, I regularly eschewed moving walkways, elevators and escalators to increase my level of daily activity. But lately I have grown lazy.

Perhaps I would be more successful at changing my behavior if the sign pictured above, which is are part of a New York City public health campaign, were adopted nationally. The signs were introduced in 2008 and sport the slogan "burn calories, not electricity" to encourage people to take the stairs when possible.

A post published today in the Atlantic reports that recent research (subscription required) suggests the signs are proving useful in helping New Yorkers make healthier decisions. Neil Wagner writes:

Signs were posted in a three-story health clinic, an eight-story affordable housing building, and a 10-story academic building. Stair and elevator trips in these buildings were then recorded, for nine months at the health clinic and housing site and briefly at the academic building.

Nine months after the signs were posted, stair use was still up: total stair use was up 43 percent at the housing site and stair climbing alone was up by over 20 percent at the health clinic.

Instead of removing the signs at the study's end, they were left in place, where they remain today. New York City now gives out similar signs to any manager of a public or private building who requests them, free of charge. So far, over 26,000 have been distributed.

Previously: Making the healthy choice a fun choice
Photo by: Cedric Maion

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