A Look Inside New York’s “Active Design” Initiative to Fight Obesity
Written by Shana Lebowitz on July 22, 2013
As New Yorkers power through a crippling heat wave, the last thing on their minds when they finally enter an air-conditioned building is sprinting up a flight of stairs. But, if Bloomberg has any say in the matter, elevators may soon go out of style.
In the past 12 years, the NYC mayor has ordered food chains to post calorie counts, banned the use of trans fat in restaurants, banned smoking in many public places, and tried to stop the sale of oversized cups of soda. Now, with just a few weeks left in office, he’s issued orders and proposed legislation designed to make staircases more visible and accessible in city buildings. His goal is to see New Yorkers sweat — essentially, to make exercise a bigger part of daily activity.
What’s the Deal?
Some of Bloomberg’s proposed strategies for getting people to use the stairs are simple, such as tacking up signs near elevators that encourage people to hoof it instead. Bloomberg also announced that the Center for Active Design, a nonprofit organization based at The New School, in New York, will lead efforts to create buildings that promote physical activity. Some potential strategies include making sure stairs are clean, well lit, and completely visible.
These recommendations are based on the city’s Active Design Guidelines, issued in 2010, which help city planners figure out how the environment can encourage a healthy lifestyleDeveloping and implementing the Active Design Guidelines in New York City. Lee, K.K. Built Environment Program. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Queens, NY, USA. Health Place 2012 Jan;18(1):5-7.. Bloomberg’s campaign to increase stair usage is one step in making those guidelines applicable to daily life.
Overall, the mayor’s efforts may be a great way to encourage people to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives. After all, one healthier choice, such as swapping the stairs for the elevator, may lead to others. At the very least, it’s a comfort to know we may actually get to work faster on foot.
Do you think Bloomberg’s efforts to promote stair use will actually get people exercising more? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author at @ShanaDLebowitz.