Hearst Competition System Proposal

Obesity is a constantly increasing problem in the United States, as a result from the compounding habits of both a horrible diet and the sedentary lifestyle that most adults lead. According to Vanderbilt in “The Crisis in American Walking”, Americans are nearly 5,000 steps below the recommended daily amount. This deficit of exercise is due to the layout of our society’s infrastructure—with our long car commutes and non-walkable streets. The layout of our buildings is a smaller-scale issue that affects a large majority of working adults; the convenience of office buildings is killing us.

In most cases, office buildings confine its occupants in strata of identical floors, layered ever higher towards the sky. The circulation through these floors is facilitated by elevators, and little consideration is ever given to taking the stairs (which are most often tucked away in a far corner of the building, for use in emergencies only). Even within each floor, circulation and movement are discouraged. A vague landscape of repeating cells appears as a monotonous labyrinth, and most occupants remain at their desk from 9 to 5. Compounded with sitting in traffic before and after work and returning home to a television and greasy microwave meal. The American lifestyle has become one of sluggishness and convenience.

Despite this trend of overarching laziness, many Americans wish to adopt healthy lifestyles. New Years’ Resolutions are begun with frantic vigor, and quickly given up on. Changing little habits is a force for change. Perhaps stairs can be the driver in the reversal of obesity.

My proposal integrates technology into the workplace. A building-wide program would be adopted, installing sensors on stairways and elevators, and encouraging workers to wear a device. The device functions like a pedometer, worn on the hip. Each person electronically sets a daily goal for how many steps to take and flights of stairs to climb. As they come closer to meeting their own goal, the device projects a pool of light at their feet—growing in intensity and becoming a shining beacon if the goal is met. The entire circulation network of the building then becomes a field of glimmering fireflies, each illuminating their own path of migration and health. However, if a person takes an elevator before their goal has been met, their feet will glow red. This sort of public display and self-determined motivation within an office space encourages movement and activity.

Taking the stairs on a daily basis can havesignificant long-term benefits. According to the NH Department of Health and Human Services, taking a single flight of stairs three times a day burns 15 calories. Six flights of stairs three times a day burns 90 calories. Over the course of a business year, this daily calorie expenditure can lead to nearly 8 pounds in weight loss. By adopting small healthy habits, the epidemic plaguing our country can be reversed.


“Calories Burned Walking a Flight of Stairs.” New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. N.p., June 2007. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.

Coleman, L.D., R.D., Erin. “Healthy Eating.” Healthy Eating. Demand Media, 2013. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.

Stefan, Kwabena. “How Many Calories Do Americans Consume Per Day?”LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., 15 Nov. 2010. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.

Vanderbilt, Tom. “The Crisis in American Walking.” Slate.com. N.p., 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.


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