Taking the stairs makes you more fit, saves you time, study says

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator won’t just make you more fit, it may also save you time.

A teeny-tiny study (we’re talking four people age 26 to 67) in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal pitted stair walking against elevator riding to see which mode of transportation took longer, and which produced more fatigue.

The participants made 14 trips of various lengths by going up and down stairs at a normal pace in a seven-story building, and by using two banks of elevators. The trips were done at different times of the day and on different days, and the amount of time of each trip was recorded.

The average stair trip took 13.1 seconds, compared with 37.5 seconds for one elevator bank and 35.6 seconds for the other bank. Most of the extra time taken by elevator riders was spent waiting for the things to arrive.


While a few seconds’ difference per trip may not seem like it would make much of a difference, the stair takers saved almost 15 minutes per day, or a 3% savings for an eight-hour day. No differences in fatigue were seen between the groups, and the study subjects felt they could continue their work day after each trip.

Since the study participants were hospital staff, the study authors put the saved time in that context: “A 3% time savings may seem trivial,” they wrote. “However, when it is placed in the context of a typical day in the hospital, it becomes more significant.” How so? One study, they noted, found that hospital doctors spent just 19% of their day providing direct care to patients.

For multi-taskers, it’s a win-win: They can exercise and bank some time for cramming more things in their day.