If you want to encourage a healthy community, you have to provide healthy options. One thing architects should take into consideration when developing their projects is the design of stairways. An eye-catching and attractive set of stairs will entice more people to check them out and use them, instead of taking the elevator or escalator.

There are many health benefits to walking up the stairs. Dr. Harvey Simon, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says walking up the stairs is one of the best-kept secrets in preventive medicine. Stair climbing is a long-term way to lose weight and keep it off, because when people walk up the stairs, they burn calories three times faster than when walking at a faster speed on a surface. Walking up the stairs for 10 minutes, a mere three times a day, will total 30 minutes of heart-strengthening exercise. Even at a slow pace, according to Simon, you’ll burn calories two to three times faster climbing stairs than walking briskly on the level.

People who take the stairs have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. And climbing just two flights of stairs everyday for a year could result in six pounds of weight loss.

Whether in public, commercial or institutional buildings, here are some tips for making stairs appealing -- and alluring -- to the public.

1. Let the sun shine in—natural lighting will make the stairs more dramatic and attractive.

2. Make stairways the intuitive option by locating them centrally and putting elevators out of eyesight or immediate view.

3. Use beautiful, natural materials for the stairs. Many stairways resemble modern art or sculpture that can be a big draw for potential stair climbers.

4. Paint stairs in bright, spectacular colors that beckon attention.

5. Add art on the walls to keep climbers visually occupied.

6. Create exterior stairs with different designs and concepts that compliment the landscapes and façade of the building.

San Francisco Friends School

What ideas do you have to encourage more people to take the stairs?