If walking were made more enjoyable—fun even—people would be encouraged to do it more often.
When given the choice, most people will opt for an escalator over the stairs, choosing ease and convenience over making the extra effort. But a couple of years ago an engineering team in Stockholm decided to explore "The Fun Theory": that if walking were made more enjoyable—fun even—people would be encouraged to do it more often. To test their theory the team created a piano—think Tom Hanks' in Big—that covered the length of stairs in the underground subway station Odenplan, in Sweden. They found that people took the stairs 66 percent more than the escalator, and had much more fun doing it.
Not only a good time, the experiment has health benefits. According to the New York Department of Health, "Just two minutes of stair-climbing each day burns enough calories to eliminate the one pound an average adult gains each year," and "Men who climbed at least 20 floors a week (about 3 floors a day) had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke or death from all causes, in one study."
While the piano staircase is not new—there's one at the Museum of Science in Boston—and a number of spinoffs have popped around the world, with the latest opening up just before the holidays in Berjaya Times Square mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but the more that this idea is co-opted, the better. The musical stairs can only lead to a more active, and healthier, population—whether stepping in tune or not.