Are motivational signs to increase stair use a thing of the past? A multi-building study

Lina Engelen*, Joanne Gale, Josephine Y. Chau, Adrian Bauman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Issue addressed: Only half of Australia's adult population is sufficiently physical active. One method thought to increase incidental physical activity at work is the use of stair-promoting interventions. Stairs are readily available and stair climbing is considered vigorous physical activity. Motivational signs have been extensively and effectively trialled to increase stair use, but are they suitable for contemporary populations? Methods: Participants were occupants of three selected University of Sydney buildings using the elevators or stairs. Infrared people counters were installed to monitor stair and elevator use for 24 h/day during two baseline weeks, followed by two intervention weeks, where motivational and directional signs were placed at points of choice. Results: At baseline there was a large between-building variation in the change in stair to elevator proportion, where we observed a small increase in two buildings (81-84%, odds ratio (OR): 1.16 (1.09, 1.23), and 26-27%, OR: 1.09 (1.03, 1.15)), and a decrease (30-25%, OR: 0.75 (0.72, 0.77) in the third building. Conclusions: Differences in stair use among buildings could be due to building design and function. Motivational and directional signs to promote stair use showed small or nil effects. The future of interventions promoting stair use in occupational settings may need more interactive or personalised intervention methods. So what? The implications of this study are that posters to promote stair use might be a thing of the past and this should be considered in future workplace health promotion efforts to increase physical activity. More novel and interactive methods using new media are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-184
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Australian Health Promotion Association 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • health promotion
  • occupational setting
  • physical activity
  • posters
  • stairs.


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