EMBARGOED: 11.00pm, 13 November 2013
A new initiative backed by the Department of Health and Mayor of London will tackle obesity and promote fitness by labelling the stairs of the world for calorie burn.
The idea is grounded in behavioural economics or ‘nudge theory’ and is designed to strengthen the hearts (and tone the legs) of office workers and commuters in cities across Britain.
The StepJockey website and app are FREE and allow anyone to:
- Automatically calculate the calories burnt climbing a specific set of stairs. It can be your home, your office, even the Shard or the Eiffel Tower
- Print or buy a set of ‘smart’ posters which prominently display the stairs’ calorie rating, encouraging people to ditch the lift and climb stairs
- Track and ‘gamify’ their stair-climbing performance with smartphone apps that read the smart signs
In trials involving more than 250,000 stair/lift journeys, stair climbing increased by up to 29% in buildings equipped with StepJockey smart signs. When office workers were able to track and gamify their stair climbing, stair use jumped by over 500%.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Anything that gets people more active and helps tackle obesity is a good thing in my book. This initiative is a great mix of old fashioned common sense and smart technology to track and incentivise.”
Even before its formal launch, stairs in over 200 buildings have been rated in Britain though the website. Several blue chip City firms are adopting the system and Hertfordshire Country Council has installed StepJockey signs in all its main buildings, including its Fire Station Headquarters and County Hall.
Unusually for a tech company, StepJockey is founded by a woman. Helen Nuki, a behavioural economics expert, had the idea after her seven-year-old daughter, Litzi, wondered why official signs “only tell you about the things that are bad for you”.
Helen said: “We tell people how many calories are in food but we don’t tell them where they can burn them off. Through StepJockey, we are offering the opportunity to put that right”.
“The world is a gym and we aim to label it as such. It has the added benefit of cutting carbon emissions by reducing the number of lift journeys”.
Benefits of stair climbing
Stair climbing is officially classed as a “vigorous” exercise by health experts: it burns seven times more calories than taking a lift and burns more calories than jogging. Research shows that seven minutes stair climbing a day can half the risk of suffering a heart attack over 10 years.
Professor Alan Batterham, Professor in Exercise at Teesside University, said: “Building a vigorous physical activity like stair climbing into your daily routine is an excellent, time-efficient way to control your weight. You also reduce your risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast and colon cancers."
It takes just one person to label a set of stairs to have a positive impact on everyone who passes them. Just seeing the signs was enough to prompt a significant uplift in stair use during the trials.
The StepJockey website, www.stepjockey.com, allows any set of stairs to be mapped and rated for calorie burn in moments. Once stairs are rated, you can print off a set of FREE smart posters immediately or order a set of professionally manufactured smart signs.
Lord Howe, minister for health, said: “It is really important that we all do as much exercise as we can to reduce the risk of preventable illness and lead longer, healthier lives.
“Tackling inactivity is one of the challenges facing the NHS today and one of the reasons why we have awarded StepJockey funding through our £20 million Small Business Research Initiative.”
Notes for editors
The StepJockey initiative is backed by the Department of Health via the Small Business Research Initiative, a government scheme that promotes innovation in areas that bring public benefits.
For more information, images and product details go to:
Research and evidence
- In the trial the presence of signs significantly increased stair usage, with upward stair journeys increasing by up to 29%
- The most influenced by the intervention were people who were overweight
- (BMI over 25), infrequent takers of physical activity and women
- When individuals were able to track and compare their progress stair usage increased 500%
- 92% of new stair climbers said it would become a habit
Links to key research findings on stair climbing and health can be found at
Stair climbing facts
- Stair climbing requires 8-9 times more energy expenditure than sitting and about 7 times more energy than taking a lift. Per minute, stair climbing burns more calories than jogging
- You burn about 0.17 calories for every step you climb, so you burn roughly a calorie and a half for every 10 upward steps
- You also burn calories going down. Every stair descended burns about 0.05 calories, so you burn 1 calorie for every 20 steps down
- Just 7 minutes stair climbing a day has been estimated to more than half the risk of a heart attack over 10 years
- And perhaps best of all, the heavier you are the more calories you burn when stair climbing
Benefits for consumers
- Rate and label any set of stairs quickly, simply and without charge
- Track and compare your stair-climbing performance with a free app
- Improve the health of others in your building by labelling it for calorie burn
- Be part of a global community which is fighting obesity and promoting wellness through the StepJockey social network
Benefits for employers:
- An effective and affordable way to promote health throughout the workplace
- Improves staff engagement and productivity
- Unlike other wellness plans, it benefits everyone in the building
- Clearly signals to stakeholders that you value a healthy environment
- Helps meet Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) standards
- Reduces lift congestion, carbon emissions and improves fire safety