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Piloting the Concept continued...

Numbers of stairway users have more than doubled -- from 1,300 before renovation to 3,500 in the first month or two, says Kristin Goff, cardiovascular coordinator for Wake County's Human Services/Health Promotion Division. She oversees the company's cardiovascular wellness program and is monitoring the stairway program's progress.

"We wanted a practical program for these employees, and it looks like it's working," Goff tells WebMD. "We're seeing some good results. We knew if we made the stairwell appealing to people and promoted it, we would see a significant increase in people using the stairs ... A lot of people going from the third to the fifth floor were using the elevators. We knew it was out of habit."

Robin Rankin is one of the "stairway converts." Not that she's overweight -- "just solid, more muscle than fat," she says. "But after you reach a certain age, you've got to watch it."

Rankin eats right, hits the treadmill, does sit-ups. She even took part in a Duke University study of the Atkins diet. Still, she didn't use the stairs at work -- she took the elevator like everybody else.

But now she does.

"It's fitness," she says. "It's something you can easily work into the day. Besides, it's faster than the elevators."

Is Your Company Interested?

Stairway makeovers are all about helping people break out of bad habits, Kerr tells WebMD. "It's a win-win situation for employers. There's lot of research showing that if you have healthy employees, your productivity level will go up, your absentee level will go down. And it doesn't have to cost much. It can be as cheap or expensive as you want."

"Some people say we're just redecorating and that it doesn't make any difference," she says. "But it does. Environment is important to people, in terms of attitude and motivation."

If you're thinking about taking on a few flights a day, there are a few advisories.

"If you're overweight, you are living with risk factors for heart disease," says Goff. "The goal is to get started moving. Research shows that if you go from doing nothing to doing something, the health benefits increase."

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