Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Transforming Elevator Riders into Stair Climbers: Impact of a "Take-the-Stairs" Campaign

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Transforming Elevator Riders into Stair Climbers: Impact of a "Take-the-Stairs" Campaign

Article excerpt


A Harvard Business Review article (Berry, Mirabito, & Baun, 2010) concluded that employee wellness programs are more than a "nice extra" (p. 105). In fact, Berry, Mirabito, and Baun's research data across 10 organizations suggested that wellness programs can return as much $6 in health care savings for every $1 spent. For example, such savings have been realized in the reduction in medical claim costs. Not only do healthy employees cost businesses less, but those employees also tend to stay longer, are more productive on the job, and enjoy higher morale. Puig-Ribera, McKenna, Gilson, and Brown (2008) also concluded that walking interventions in the workplace impacted employees' wellbeing & work place performance. A meta-analysis by Parks and Steelman (2008) provided further evidence that organizational wellness programs have a wide variety of positive impacts, including decreased absenteeism and increased job satisfaction.

Because our university has been recognized nationally and internationally for sustainability initiatives, faculty members at each of the academic units frequently integrate sustainability concepts into academic and service activities. In 2014, the Teacher's College Sustainability Committee established a goal to expand past sustainability efforts to pair these with personal and group wellness initiatives.

An examination of our university's employee participation in wellness campaigns revealed that the Teachers College faculty and professional staff ranked near the bottom in participation for colleges in university-wide wellness programs. More importantly, we believed that Teachers College professors should be at the forefront in modeling behavior for future educators, who have the opportunity to influence the issue of childhood obesity and wellness. It became apparent to our Wellness and Sustainability Committees that we needed to initiate a wellness campaign within the college. After considering more formal physical fitness activities, we chose to implement a program that was easily implemented and available to all who chose to participate. Since our college building spanned 10 floors above level with a lower-level bank of laboratories, we decided to initiate a take-the-stairs campaign.

The purpose of this study was to understand how a comprehensive wellness (take-the-stairs) campaign could impact workday physical activity. We also sought to measure the translation of those workday activities into self-reported physical activity outside of the workplace.


Research is inconsistent in that some research illustrated that the increase in stair climbing has been shown to sustain over time even after the prompts have been removed (Kerr, Eves, & Carroll, 2012) while other research suggests the amount of stair climbing returns to baseline levels (Kwak, Kremers, van Baak,& Brug, 2001). Previous research has established a clear impact on stair climbing within the work environment, but has not examined the impact on amount of exercise or other issues of wellness outside of the work environment.

Many public institutions have faced budget cuts, as outlined in Ball State University's former president's "Presidential Perspectives" email of 1/14/14. Wellness initiatives can reduce mounting health insurance costs, loss of employee productivity due to illness, and therefore, support the sustainability of limited university resources for other program purposes. We hoped to provide research data to inform our decision-making about increasing wellness through initiatives in the workplace as a college, university, and as contributing partners to global efforts in increasing workday physical activity.


These benefits of exercise have been supported in many studies. Demers (2014) concluded in a study of undergraduate students that a six-week exercise program significantly decreased self-reported levels of depression and anxiety in subjects in the exercise condition but not in the control condition. …

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