Student Research Promotes Physical Activity by Comparing Time to Take Stairs to Elevator

Research Findings to be Presented at American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting


May 25, 2007


USC Aiken students of the Exercise and Sports Science Department recently conducted research comparing the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator versus climbing stairs concluding that taking the stairs saves time. These research findings will be presented at the 54 th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in New Orleans next week.


The research project stemmed from class discussions about several practical recommendations for individuals to increase their amount of physical activity including taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator between floors. Students began research in the University’s Business and Education Building, where they surveyed individuals riding elevators to see why they chose the elevator over stairs. The most popular answer was that riding the elevator was quicker than taking the stairs.


To test this concept, student researchers recorded the time required to ascend and descend one floor by taking the stairs and elevator over several days. A small group of participants were instructed to alternate between elevator and stair use and to take the stairs at a self-selected “normal” pace during the course of their daily routine. Research findings showed that it actually takes approximately twice as much time to take the elevator when ascending or descending one floor.


The time required to take the elevator was significantly greater than the time required to use the stairs going both up and down only one floor. The excess time required when taking the elevator was attributed to the wait, not the travel time, since the actual elevator ride was measured at approximately 10 seconds. The time required to ascend the stairs was greater than the time to descend the stairs, while there was no significant difference between taking the elevator up and elevator down one floor.


The study team, led by Dr. Brian Parr, assistant professor of exercise and sports science, said they hope this information can be used as part of an intervention to increase stair use, where specific and relevant messages have been shown to be effective in encouraging physical activity. “Climbing the stairs a few floors saves you time and adds to the physical activity you can accumulate throughout the day,” said Parr. “This is just one of many choices people can make to be more physically active.”


The ACSM is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world.  More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.