Designing for physical activity Print

Design Outcome

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Design Checklist​

  1. Buildings are designed to encourage walking and the use of stairs over lifts
  2. Buildings provide facilities to encourage active transport and exercise


The majority of people spend as much as ninety percent of their days indoors, often engaged in sedentary occupations. The design of the building’s circulation system provides an opportunity to promote informal physical activity. Integrating active design principles creates movement networks that encourage regular physical activity, such as climbing stairs, throughout the day.

Better Design Practice

Promote physical activity by designing stairs into the building for everyday use.

Increase stair use by placing highly visible stairs within the building’s orientation areas, next to lifts and escalators. 

Features such as unnecessary escalators and an overemphasis on lifts can deter physical activity.​

​Stairs should be of an appealing design.

Use an articulated and unique staircase design to promote interest in stair travel. Grand staircases or stairs that incorporate unique and interesting balustrade, handrail, and landing designs, can encourage use of the stairs.​

Design stair environments that appeal to the senses.

Provide a stair experience that is more stimulating than the elevator. Strategies to enhance the sensory appeal of the stair include:
  • Highlighting interesting views such as outlooks onto nature or indoor gathering areas
  • Incorporating artwork into the stair environment or adding music to stairwells
  • Incorporating natural ventilation
  • Selecting bright, inviting colours that attract use
  • Ensuring stairwells are well lit and incorporate natural daylight.​

Place signage at lifts and escalators to encourage stair use.

Signage located at lifts or escalators that direct people to nearby stairs and emphasises the health benefits of stair use, can prompt people who would otherwise use the lift to take the stairs. Across studies, the placement of such signage increases stair use by a median of 50%.​

​​​Provide stairs that can accommodate the needs of different users, including large or small groups.

Design stairs to accommodate the young, elderly, and others with minor physical challenges. For best practice, refer to Universal Design Guidelines.​

​​Provide exercise facilities, changing rooms and bicycle storage to encourage active transport and regular physical activity.

Providing conveniences such as drinking fountains and lockers can further support physical activity. ​​

The success of these facilities is dependent on their availability, convenience, desirability, safety, and comfort.

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