As part of his administration's continuous efforts to improve the city's health, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday several initiatives to promote stair use through "active" building design.
"Buildings are often designed in ways that minimize physical activity," Bloomberg said, announcing the creation of the nonprofit Center for Active Design, a public-private collaboration.
The center will promote changes to building design to fight obesity, which kills more than 5,000 New Yorkers every year. To combat the epidemic, the center aims to make stairways more appealing.
"Since the invention of the elevator, stairs became relegated to purely means of egress in the case of fire," said Construction Commissioner David Burney, who also serves as chairman of the board for the center.
"We've got to make it cool" to use the stairs, Bloomberg added.
Regular stair use can not only promote weight loss, but reduces the risk of stroke, lowers bad cholesterol levels and improves overall cardiovascular health, according to Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
Now, only 30 percent of New Yorkers get enough activity during the day. A quarter of New Yorkers aren't getting any exercise at all.
"Stair-climbing is an important, valuable and under-recognized form of physical activity," Farley said.
In its last few months, the Bloomberg administration will introduce legislation promoting access to stairways, requiring buildings to have clearly identified stairways and post signs encouraging their use. For those pesky inaccessible locked stairways, another bill will allow limited use of hold-open devices that would instead shut automatically in emergencies.
Simply posting a sign reminding New Yorkers they can take the stairs has increased their use, Farley said.
With the initiatives, Bloomberg stressed he isn't trying to force anyone into working out.
"The whole idea here is not to change what you have to do, but to give you the idea and the impetuous to do something that is in your own interest," Bloomberg said.
For his part, Bloomberg said he usually takes the stairs at his five-story townhouse on the Upper East Side.
"Stairs are much faster and more convenient," he said, shrugging. "Exercise is good for you—Nobody can tell you how to live."
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