Likening stairs in buildings to climbing a mountain: Self-reports of expected effects on stair climbing and objective measures of effectiveness

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Health promotion agencies advocate use of mountain climbing goals to encourage regular stair climbing, a current public health target. This paper tests effects of a mountain climbing campaign on objective measures of stair use for the first time.


Field interview and quasi-experimental, interrupted time-series study.


In field interviews, a convenience sample (n = 1350) responded to questions about different goals, i.e., heights of climb, to encourage stair use in buildings. Subsequently, a point-of-choice intervention with the main message ‘Take the stairs to the top of this building once a day and in a year, you would have climbed Mount Everest almost twice’ was tested in a 12-floor worksite. A no-message baseline was followed by installation of the intervention.


Stair ascent (n = 62,716) and descent (n = 61,218) at the ground floor was measured with automated counters at baseline (11 days) and during the intervention (18 days). The majority of interviewees (60%) chose a message based on climbing Mt. Everest as the most motivating, with only 5% of interviewees not motivated by any climbing goal. Nonetheless, the subsequent intervention using the mountain climbing goal had no effect on stair climbing (OR = 0.96). As the campaign specifically targeted stair ascent, it failed to influence the behaviour with the greater public health dividend.


The discrepancy between pre-testing and the campaign may reflect the fact that performance goals can only be achieved at the end of the task and may not be continually rewarded during accumulation of behaviour towards the goal.

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